Off the Shelf, Poetry Thursdays
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Just Keep Pushing: Conversations with the Woman in the Mirror

August-September 2018:

Death, grief, consequent failure

Do I need to take time 

off? No, time is not on your side; 

You already started 

your medical school journey 


Just keep pushing


October-November 2018:

Therapy, getting back to myself, 

passing. You have bounced back, 

girl. You can do this.

Just keep pushing


December 2018:

Death, grief, consequent failure

Why does this keep happening 

to me? Well, I still have the option 

to take the leave of absence,

Restore my emotional


No, I don’t need it.

I have been here before, so I know 

how to handle it.

Just keep pushing


January 2019:

Revisiting therapeutic tactics, getting back to myself, 

passing. You did it again.

You have been so strong 

in your weakness; Now, look forward 

to your remediation and dedicated periods.

Just keep pushing


Early February 2019:

Step One just around the corner, facing deficits 

in knowledge from the times 

I “checked out.” Are you 

ready? No, I am not.

Do you want to pay

over 600 dollars for an exam you are guaranteed 

to fail? No, I do not.

But I want to finish with those I started with.

Just keep… no, stop pushing.


Mid-February 2019:

Back against the wall, coming to terms 

with reality, feelings of inadequacy.

Hey, hey, pick your head up!

There is no reason to be 

ashamed or embarrassed.

This journey is unique 

to you, so own it.

Take the leave of absence, and try 

it again next year.

It’s okay; I promise.

God would not have brought you to this point to have you fail.

You will be Dr. Courtney E. Cosby, M.D. in his timing.

Just keep pushing


As medical students, we strive so hard for perfection that we are not always honest with ourselves or other students about our shortcomings in addition to our successes. This perpetuates a cycle of unrealistic standards and silent struggles. I was not immune to this “imposter syndrome.” For months, I had these conversations solely with myself and a therapist. I did not readily express my struggles to my classmates, to those who could best empathize and point me in the direction of a resource or older student who may have helped me understand the material. 

As future physicians, we must be able to establish trust amongst our colleagues, unafraid to admit when we do not know information and accept guidance. Conversations with the (wo)man in the mirror are necessary, but are not enough; we must be transparent when life throws us curveballs and accept support. This opens the door for a more collaborative environment in which teaching — and learning — are welcomed. In turn, this will help us to better care for our patients as a team.

Poetry Thursdays is an initiative that highlights poems by medical students and physicians. If you are interested in contributing or would like to learn more, please contact our editors.


Courtney Cosby (1 Posts)

Contributing Writer

Saint Louis University School of Medicine

Courtney is a second year medical student at Saint Louis University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO class of 2022. In 2015, she graduated from DePauw University with a Bachelor of Arts in history, minor in psychology. She is a jazz music fanatic from Memphis, TN who also enjoys road trips, "good eats," and playing the bass clarinet in her free time. After graduating medical school, Courtney would like to pursue a career in either child and adolescent psychiatry or pediatric rheumatology.