July 26, 2017 by celia


The title of one of my previous blogs in and of itself posed an important question: “What Is A Good Patient?” How one defines a “good patient” varies, as does their reason for wanting to be one. During my tenure as a Medical Humanist at Southwestern Vermont’s Regional Cancer Center I witnessed the difficult task doctors faced in reconciling those who became patients—to their illness.

Dr. Judy Raffone, who had become a patient, shared the lived experience of illness and its impact both personally and professionally. And, in so doing, humanized the doctors’ experience. With Dr. Raffone’s permission, I am sharing what is a valuable teaching moment – a gift.

“In February, I had to take on a new role: patient. I have been a physician for over 30 years. I work daily at open communication, active listening trying to meet the patient/family where they are, try to have discussions that are important to their health. I strive to do that to best meet their learning style—verbal, written, pictures on line material, call backs from my nurses or me to review their understanding and questions that have come up. Do we get it right every time, absolutely not, we can only do our best? That being said, to be a good patient, you need to improve your active listening skills. On any given appointment, I know before hand how I am feeling—STRESSED, stressed, TIRED, tired, COMPLETELY AWFUL and last week WHINEY. I let my nurse know up front where I am emotionally that day as it effects what I communicate, what I hear, what I retain. If I am in any of the CAPITAL states, I always write down my questions, new medications, medications I stopped taking, what side effects have happened though the week and when (my treatments are weekly). Other times it’s a combination of memory (I’ve reviewed getting ready) or written. At the start of the support process I always had a support person with me –generally—my husband—paper and pen (I am faster than writing notes on my iPhone) so that I could take notes and have my questions readily available to ask. A patient (and their support players), a good physician, good nurse, and good ancillary staff, combined together are a great team if everyone takes a few precious minute to be open to find out who you are as a patient.  You as a team need to understand your team is doing the best they can on any particular day recognizing that stress changes things. In the past 3-½ months I have consciously tried to self manage stress with a laugh a day, resting more (and my team will tell you I need reminders) on my treatment day many laughs. That helps me understand their message and ask appropriate questions so I don’t sabotage my treatment.”

Invisibility Is Not A Natural State

June 28, 2017 by celia

“We need to raise our voices a little more, even as they say to us,
‘This is so uncharacteristic of you.’ Invisibility is not a natural state for anyone.”

After each of our SpeakSooner community education programs I would ask myself, “How did this program differ from the one before? And, what was the take away?” I often wonder if others ask themselves the same questions.

What brought this to mind was an e-mail I received from a hospice social worker who often attends our community programs.


CCM to present at Vermont Center for Independent Living

June 21, 2017 by celia

On Wednesday, July 12, 2017 the Vermont Center for Independent Living will host Center for Communication in Medicine’s (CCM) co-founders Dr. Bernard Bandman and Celia Engel Bandman for a program, “How To Improve Communication with Doctors”. The program will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 108 School Street in Bennington, Vermont from 1-3pm. The program is free and open to the public.

SpeakSooner programs introduce the Difficult Conversations Toolkit, a guide developed by CCM to help patients and families identify and communicate questions and concerns about risks and benefits of treatment options, quality of life considerations and supportive care needs – beginning sooner in the course of illness.

An attendee at a recent program said, “CCM offers the community a priceless gift. There is an overwhelming need and thirst for your expertise.” Patients, families and healthcare providers are invited.


June 7, 2017 by celia

I don’t know who it was that said poetry is defined as a language writing itself out of a difficult situation. What I know is illness is one of those situations.  (more…)

CCM at Stanford Medicine

May 24, 2017 by celia

On Tuesday, June 13, 2017 from 5:30 – 7:00 pm the Bennington, Vermont-based Center for Communication in Medicine (CCM) will partner with Stanford Medicine Palliative Care to present “Illness Does Not Just Impact One Person: We’re Stronger Together – Getting Patients, Families and Doctors on the Same Page” at the Stanford Health Library at Hoover Pavilion, 211 Quarry Road, Palo Alto, CA. Free and open to the public.

This will be Stanford Medicine Palliative Care’s first community education program with CCM founders Dr. Bernard Bandman and Celia Engel Bandman. A panel of experts will discuss challenges of healthcare communication and how to become an active partner in decisions about care. There will be a question and answer session.     

The aim of CCM’s SpeakSooner initiative is to help patients and their caregivers prepare to initiate open and honest conversations with healthcare providers about risks and benefits of treatment options, quality-of-life considerations and supportive care needs. The program will introduce The Difficult Conversations Toolkit, a guide developed by CCM to help patients identify concerns and ask timely questions, prompting meaningful communication sooner in the course of illness.

Space is limited.  RSVPs are not required, but encouraged. Contact Tayler Kiss-Lane email: taylerkl@stanford.edu phone: 650-736-8671. To learn more click HERE .


May 17, 2017 by celia

When I was first diagnosed,” she said, “I didn’t feel I needed your help. I know how to get what I need—I’m a nurse, we speak the same language.” (more…)


April 26, 2017 by celia

  “Variability is the law of life…no two bodies are alike, no two individuals react and behave alike
under the conditions which we know as disease.” – William Osler, MD

In my previous blog I noted, “patients’ want to be good patients,” which prompted several people to ask, “What is a good patient?”  (more…)

Stories Are The Antibodies Against Illness

April 10, 2017 by celia


I often think about what the writer and patient Anatole Broyard said, “Stories are the antibodies against illness.”

It’s hard enough that a diagnosis comes along to threaten our lives—does it also have to threaten our life stories?   (more…)


March 8, 2017 by celia

WNYT Channel 13’s news anchor and health reporter, Benita Zahn, recently visited Center for Communication in Medicine (CCM) to talk with co-founders Dr. Bernard Bandman and Celia Engel Bandman and patient Kiki Smith. The interview covered a wide range of subjects including barriers to doctor-patient communication, use of the Difficult Conversations Toolkit and how SpeakSooner Community Programs have prepared patients and families to be more effective communicators.

To learn more about SpeakSooner’s Community Education Programs join us on March 24 at the Oldcastle Theater in Bennington, VT for an exclusive screening of the award winning documentary, “The Boys of 2nd Street Park”, featuring CCM’s Dr. Bernard Bandman as one of the ‘Boys’.

The Waiting Room Syndrome

February 22, 2017 by celia


“When I think of people in waiting rooms, including myself, I picture us rifling restlessly through battered magazines,” writes Rachel Hadas, Guest Editor of  “The Waiting Room Reader II:  Words to Keep You Company”.