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Tell Your Patient Story

Dr. Brittany Clayborne travels the United States inspiring others to share their story. Here are the tips she offered at the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) Breakthrough Summit.

Patient advocate and storyteller Brittany Clayborne

Imagine dying six times, living to tell about it and becoming a therapist in the process.

It’s the true story of Dr. Brittany Clayborne, who survived a rare form of peripartum cardiomyopathy, a heart transplant and cancer. The harrowing, psychologically draining experience motivated her to become a mental health advocate for people with critical illness.

Now, she’s booked by organizations and universities across the United States to share her story of perseverance. With some practice, Clayborne says storytelling can be the springboard that helps patients advocate for themselves and achieve their goals as she did.

Telling your own story can help somebody else, evoke an emotional response, carry on a legacy and help you push your narrative forward, Clayborne said. With a story, you can inspire other advocates, provided needed education and prompt donors to support important patient organizations and initiatives.

Clayborne shared her insights at the 2023 NORD Breakthrough Summit in Washington D.C. Here are three takeaways:

  1. Recognize the value of your unique and powerful story: Everyone has a story worth sharing, one that has the potential to inspire and impact others.


    “Don’t overlook your story because somebody else’s story looks bigger or stronger,” she said.


  2. Engage your audience: Ask questions, use humor and body language, modify your tone and volume. Guide the audience to form questions your presentation will answer and give them something to think about.


  3. Have a clear call to action: Always include a hook or a call to action.

“It is the thing that you want them to do for you or to take away from the conversation,” Clayborne said. “So, if I want you to be inspired, if I want you to feel joy, if I want you to want to pledge donations to my nonprofit so that I can increase advocacy efforts, all of those things are hooks.”

To simplify the process, she suggests creating a story the same way you catch a fish. Think of the storyteller as the rod and the reel as your engaging call to action. The line is the story; the bait is the attention grabber; and the hook is the call to action.

Interested in telling your story? Clayborne provided this worksheet to help you get started.