Example poetry

Celebrating the Art, Poetry, and Prose of Yale Health Professions Students

A virtual celebration of poetry, prose and art, created by Yale MD, Online Physician Assistant (PA), Physician Associate, Nursing and Public Health students, was held May 5 during the program Annual Humanities in Medicine (PHM) Creative Medical Writing and Student Art Competition for Health Professions. One hundred and thirty students submitted applications, almost twice as many as last year. With “so many exceptionally beautiful pieces,” Assistant Professor of Medicine and Associate Program Director, Traditional Internal Medicine Residency, Cynthia Frary McNamara, MD, said selecting the winners was particularly difficult. McNamara is acting director of the PHM.

Medicine was a theme in many award-winning works, with students reflecting on the experience of medical professional students, patients, or a patient’s loved ones.

Anna Vignola, MMSc, ​​graduate student in the online PA program, explained that her rotation with a geriatrician inspired her first-place poem, as the sun sets behind our fig tree. Many of the patients Vignola engaged with were accompanied by longtime spouses. In a moment of clarity, she realized how humans express themselves through behavior and how few words are. In a suitably short poem, she depicts his behavior conveying his emotions.

as the sun sets behind our fig tree

I am grateful
for the two sleeping little bodies
next to me
and for the one on the couch
to whom, in an instant,
I will bring the last fig
of the season
to use hot water
and for sometimes
leave the kitchen window open
then he will think of me
as he drifts off to sleep

Authors of submissions tied for first place in prose reflect on clinical rotations in their articles. Rising fourth-year medical student Isaiah Thomas wrote The end of days a few months after his rotation in child psychiatry. “I knew that my interactions with the patient on whom the piece is based were very moving and meaningful to me,” says Thomas. “But writing about the experience required me to put into words exactly what that impact was”, and “also forced me to think about the universal aspects of the experience and how it might be meaningful to others” .

Presenting The judgeSeventh-year medical/doctoral student Adriana Cherskov shared that it was based on an experience she had at the start of her internal medicine rotation several years ago. It centered on a patient – ​​a judge – who was seen as arrogant, because he insisted on being called a judge. When Cherskov first met him, the judge’s wife pushed a chair towards her, which Cherskov initially refused. The judge told Cherskov that having her sit in a chair made him more comfortable, explaining that when the medical team hovered over him in white coats and talked about him in the third person, it dehumanized him. Cherskov realized that the judge was not trying to be treated better than others when he insisted on being called a judge, he was simply trying to maintain his identity and dignity, despite his illness – a lesson that had an impact on how she engages all patients.

In several works of art, the students were either the relatives of the patients or the patient themselves. For example, in Loving with Long Covid, who received second place in poetry, Aaron Phillips, a PA Online class of 2023 student, beautifully expresses his emotions over the fact that his boyfriend was disabled for two years by Long COVID. (Phillips, who said he only learned to draw in his didactic year, also received an honorable mention in art for his drawing Hang on.) Another PA class of 2023 online student, Christina Ruiz, who tied for third place in poetry, explains that she wrote My choice personal experience and hoped to reduce the stigma of abortion through it. Her poem ends with: “Today I was not a student; I was the patient. A patient who has a choice.

A theme reflected in several books is the struggle to absorb all that is taught in the curricula of health professionals. Class of 2022 Physician Associate Program student Alex Hauptli created Drowning—for which he received honorable mention in art—during his didactic year. Pointing to an image of someone struggling to stay afloat in a sea of ​​medical terms, he explained “it could be anyone studying medicine, and I often identify with the subject”. He added: “I feel like I finally learned to swim.”

Erika Chang-Sing, a third-year medical student, wrote her poem small knot, who received an honorable mention, as she began studying for medical commissions. Describing having to relearn all the things she had forgotten, she compares herself to a piece of plant stem that has no roots or leaves, and, in this excerpt, to a cutting of a plant that has leaves, but who needs to push back his roots.

They are sitting in the water, trying to grow roots.
I imagine they wonder
I haven’t already done that?

Meanwhile, I’m studying for my exam and wondering
Didn’t I already learn this?
Shouldn’t I already know that?
Part of me wants to believe I didn’t
Because I don’t.

It scares me how deeply I forget.
As easily and completely as a scissor cut
I remember embryology the way my plants remember their ancient roots.
Those things that were once ours
They don’t help us now.
We will all just have to start over.

Several students expressed how the arts helped them in their health professional studies. For example, first-year medical student Grace Wang, whose painting Patina received an honorable mention, says creating watercolor sketches while hiking “inspires me to patiently observe and marvel at not only the beauty of nature, but also the movement embedded in the relationships between entities and stories hidden in the intervening spaces”. Wang finds it especially valuable in medical school “because it helps me slow down and learn to be a better observer.” Painting also helps Wang feel centered and be her best when learning to care for others.

“Art and literature provide a complex understanding of the human experience, which is essential for providing empathetic care,” says Zeynep Inanoglu, a first-year student in the School of Nursing. Plus, she says, spending time reading, painting, writing and consuming art kept her grounded throughout her first year of nursing school. In his honorable mention painting, Mom and I, she aimed to “capture the tenderness and adventure of new parenthood” through the eyes of her parents. Inanoglu explains that she is able to pursue her passion and become a nurse thanks to the dedication and resilience of her parents, who made great sacrifices so that their children could succeed.

The active “conversation” during the event reflected a great appreciation for the school community of creative health professionals, as did the statements from the winners. For example, noting that this would be his last entry into the contest, Vignola said, “what an honor it is to be part of this contest and this community of writers.”

McNamara also expressed gratitude to everyone who entered the competition, as well as PHM Program Manager Karen P. Kolb, MFA, for coordinates it, and the judges: Aba Black, Terry Dagradi, Rosana Gonzalez-Colaso, Melissa Grafe, Lorence Gutterman, Randi Hutter-Epstein, Elizabeth Marhoffer, Kenneth Morford, Sharon Ostfeld-Johns, Muffy Pendergast, Jennifer Reynolds-Kaye, Rita Rienzo, Lisa Sanders, Nora Segar, Susan Wheeler and Joanne Wilcox.

Marguerite Rush-Lerner Prizes were awarded to medical students. The MPS funded the other prizes.

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