Rx for Physicians? Writing.

The intense experience of healing others can leave physicians feeling stressed. In fact, nearly half of all U.S. doctors experience burnout, and more than a third report depression, says the American Medical Association.

But a powerful remedy may be as close as a pen or a laptop. “Why Doctors Write: Finding Humanity in Medicine,” a documentary by Ken Browne ’72, is chronicling a trend that’s having an impact on the study and the practice of medicine: encouraging physicians to write poems, fiction and personal essays. Proponents say this not only helps doctors deal with negative emotions, it helps them become better doctors.

“Writing allows you a cathartic experience, and doing it with peers in a group is a way to build community,” Browne says.

For the 45-minute documentary, which is still in production, Browne has visited New York University’s program in humanistic medicine and Columbia University’s program in narrative medicine, which offer reflective writing groups. He’s also interviewed Rafael Campo, an accomplished poet who is a general practitioner and a Harvard Medical School teacher.

Clips of “Why Doctors Write” have already been shown at medical conferences and training seminars. Ultimately, Browne hopes public broadcasting stations will syndicate the documentary.

“I feel really committed to getting this film out there, to document some great practitioners and successful programs,” he says. “I think it is of interest to anyone, but if it’s seen only by medical professionals, I’ll still be happy.”

Browne majored in English and fine arts at Brandeis, studied art history at NYU, and received a master’s in Italian studies at Yale before discovering a passion for filmmaking. He got his start as an editor on the syndicated baseball-highlights program “This Week in Baseball” and later worked at Major League Baseball Films for more than 20 years.

Since starting his own production company, Browne has made documentaries on subjects as diverse as the studio pottery movement and the founding of a new public high school in New York City’s Chinatown. “I always wanted to be a teacher of the humanities,” he says. “This is my way of doing it.”

— Jarret Bencks