When your body threatens mutiny and you are peering into the abyss, you want a doctor who has contemplated mortality in a deep way. Being sick is indeed hell and every patient deserves a Virgil. Infusing the medical training with a bit more Virgil just might be the key. More
The “art of medicine” is a term that is used—sometimes disparagingly—to refer to the non-technical skills of medicine. Artistic rendering enables us to appreciate the emotional grappling one must do in the world of anatomy and in the larger world of medicine. More
A large part of our medical maturation is facing uncertainty and then accepting it into our fold. This is far harder than memorizing all those rare diseases. The humanities can offer doctors a paradigm for living with ambiguity and even for relishing it. More
As soon as we’d finish rounds on the medical wards I’d race to pass out an Anatole Broyard essay in the nanoseconds before dispersal entropy overtook our team. More
For one premed, a chance exposure to an unknown sliver of literature sprung open an entirely new world. The unexpected opportunity to steep in the humanities offered me ways to think and write about medicine that I doubt would have been accessible to me otherwise.
Sometimes it is the things we deem least practical that wield the most power. In fact, poetry’s impracticality may be its strength. By being just words on a page, it isn’t expected to pull the weight of chemotherapy, antibiotics, or an MRI machine. So when a poem does pack a punch, we’re often bowled over. More
Was writing simply cathartic, an unloading of pent-up frustration, pain, occasional exhilaration? Or was this part of a nobler cause, something that would fall under the purview of healing, something with ultimate benefit for my patients? For if it wasn’t the latter, was I not simply exploiting my patients for their readily accessible drama? More
At first glance, it might seem odd that a public health journal would initiate a section about arts and humanities. Public health, after all, deals with populations; it eschews the individual except as it forms one of a group. The creative arts, however, deal almost exclusively with individuals. Literature, in particular, always has a protagonist, and the protagonist is never ‘alcoholics with pancreatitis,’ ‘female prisoners receiving hepatitis B vaccination,’ ‘South Asians with cardiovascular risk factors,’ ‘UK asylum seekers with infectious disease,’ or ‘teenaged asthmatic smokers.’ A protagonist is an individual.