About Liisa Ogburn

Liisa Ogburn_smallI currently write, produce large-scale oral history projects and teach documentary to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as physician residents at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke, as a way to reconnect with the human side of medicine. My work at Duke has been featured in Academic Medicine, the News & Observer, the Huffington Post, Psychology Today, the Charlotte Observer, the Chronicle, Duke Medicine, and other places.

My personal essays have been featured in the New York Times, Runner’s World and Brainchild.

Three recent projects I’ve been working on outside Duke include a large-scale oral history for Oakwood, the first historic district in North Carolina which was almost demolished in 1972 when cities across the United States were clearing poor downtown land to make space for highways under the guise of “urban renewal.”  I am also working on a documentary play on motherhood based on 200 interviews I did with women across the country. Finally, I’ve just completed a memoir with my dyslexic son called “Looking for Heroes: One Dyslexic Boy, One Year, 100 Letters.”

I have lived and taught in Germany, Finland, Estonia, Costa Rica, England, Scotland and Japan. I currently live in Raleigh, N.C. with my husband and three children.

This website shares some of the ways I have used documentary and storytelling over the last decade to build community, inspire action, contribute to public policy debate, and teach.


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  • "It’s not about statistics. It’s about using individual stories to create that connection, that empathy. Then, rational arguments, like numbers, can play a supporting role."
    - Nicholas Kristof

    "When you’re lost in a good story, it’s not arbitrary, it’s not pleasure for pleasure’s sake. It’s biological, it’s chemical, it’s a survival mechanism."
    - Author Lisa Chron

    "Stories are powerful because they transport us into other people’s worlds but, in doing that, they change the way our brains work and potentially change our brain chemistry — and that’s what it means to be a social creature."
    - Neuroscientist Paul Zak

    "Listening is an act of love."
    - David Isay, StoryCorps