The goal of the following workshop is to challenge pre-health undergraduate and graduate students explore the implications of having a rare disease. Our hope is that this will help students be more compassionate and understanding in their future interactions with patients and families affected by a rare disease.


This activity is inspired by Christine Miserandino’s The Spoon Theory, a piece where she attempts to describe to a friend what it’s like to live with Lupus, a chronic autoimmune illness. She uses spoons from around the diner that they were eating in to represent units of energy. Most healthy people have a seemingly unlimited number of spoons (barely depleted by daily tasks) which can be easily replenished by rest at night. However, chronic illness patients have a limited number of extra spoons to “spend” on non-necessary tasks because a great majority of their spoons are taken up by various symptoms, as well as treatments, doctor’s appointments, and other tasks which healthy people do not normally have to do. Through this interactive exercise, participants will learn what it means to live with a limited amount of energy (or “spoons”).


Access the materials needed to complete the workshop by clicking on the appropriate images below.

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materials for students to prepare for the workshop

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a workshop activity for undergraduate or graduate pre-health students

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Intstructor Notes

for implementing the workshop and leading discussion


Did you use the materials and have feedback? Do you have questions about using these materials? Please send us an e-mail

Special thanks to Global Genes for the funds to put together these training materials.