Dominoes Episode Eight

Charley had asked Josh to do a second exercise on story framing. He was very happy with the first exercise, but he wanted the interns to discover other key features of story framing. Charley had found that telling was rarely effective in understanding; whereas, discovering concepts for yourself created a more robust insight. He asked Josh to write stories connected to the work of Dr. Letterman, a battlefield surgeon.

In 1824 Jonathan Letterman was born in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania as the son of a surgeon. Perhaps he was destined to have a medical career. When   he graduated from medical school, he took a position with the Army as  an Assistant Surgeon.

When the Civil War started, he became the medical director of the Army of the Potomac. He was told to do whatever it took to improve medical care for soldiers. What he found on the battlefield was appalling.

In a short period of time, Dr. Letterman brought about the following innovations:

  • Triage practices for the wounded
  • First aid stations close to the battlefields
  • Standard operating practices for the treatment of soldiers
  • A system for the distribution of medical supplies
  • A transport system for wounded soldiers.

Letterman’s innovations quickly proved successful. An Act of Congress made his innovations the standard practice for the Army. In the Peninsula campaign of 1862, prior to Letterman’s innovations, the mortality rate averaged 33%. After his innovations, by comparison, the mortality rate at the Battle of Gettysburg dropped to 2%.

Another innovation of Letterman was the treatment of wounded soldiers left behind after the battle was over. He created a medical encampment to treat soldiers from both sides. He was also able to secure support for the  treatment after the battles were over.

Letterman’s innovations became the forerunner of the Geneva  Convention, which covers the treatment of combatants worldwide. Letterman never saw the worldwide acceptance of his innovations. He passed away in 1872 at the age of 47.

Story 1:  Beau had been shot in the leg and was bleeding badly. He laid in the battlefield for close to a day when he eventually died from blood loss. His wound could have been easily treated, but the supplies that were needed for his treatment were at a distant. When his fellow soldiers volunteered to carry him to a battlefield hospital, they were denied permission.

Story 2:  Jebediah had been wounded and left behind by his comrades. When soldiers from the North found him, they took him to a nearby makeshift first aid station. Jeb’s wound was treated and he was taken to a prisoner encampment where he continued to be cared for. Once the war was over, Jeb returned home with a perspective on the war that was vastly different from others in his town.

When Charley asked the interns for their reflections on these stories, these were some of the most insightful responses:

“I liked how the stories contrasted the before and after resulting from Dr. Letterman’s work.”

“My father was in the Iraq conflict and told stories about how he saw some of the greatest humanitarian efforts in the midst of armed conflict. Now I know how those efforts came about.”

Charley was again delighted by the responses. He shared with the interns what they had discovered for themselves about story framing.

  • Make the stories emotional. Both positive (happiness, joy, hope) and negative (anger, disgust, outrage) emotions can be effective.
  • Make the stories relatable so that others can readily identify with the situation.
  • Make the stories inspirational in that they contrast what is with what might be.
  • Make the stories short so that they create a shock effect.

Charley suggested that the interns might want to begin thinking about their story frames for the difference they wanted to make.

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“Every story I create, creates me. I want to create myself.” – Octavia Butler (Author)

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.