I start the day like most of us do: stimulating the needy vessels we call bodies with caffeine. As I open up my coffee jar to dispense ground Turkish coffee beans, I am met with a hint of loving bitterness. It carries a comforting brown sugar warmth that often stirs a sense of weakness given my inherent dependency on this substance but also commands secure boldness through notes of molasses and dark chocolate.
We are given tools to imitate their behavior, in hopes that we ourselves will one day embody that behavior. Mechanical checkboxes on the standardized exam with standardized patients. Cannot forget a single step. But life is not standardized, is it?
In order to honor these works as well as celebrate the start of the New Year, we asked each of our editors to share their ‘Editors’ Pick’, a must-read piece from 2023 that showcases the talent and breadth of our contributors.
Growing up, I wanted to be an actress. It amazed me how actors could make a story seem so real and how easily I would fall in love with characters I’d known for only 90 minutes. Most of the kids in my neighborhood would play outside together, but I always wanted to stay home and watch my favorite movie, Shutter Island.
I expect the attending to leave the room after ripping off her gloves and gown. Instead she grabs a clean towel and gently wipes the patient’s forehead with the soft tenderness of a mother. I decide that this is the kind of doctor I want to be.
To be seen, / as you are, / For who you are, / Absent judgment, / Equals patient care.
I quickly realized, they allow the inner recesses of my soul to connect with my imagination, together spewing forth a wonderful concoction of syllables, metaphors and outright madness on dozens of sticky notes
My eyes locked on the upside-down words scribbled on the paper that was torn from my preceptor’s notebook a few moments prior. Dear God, my patient wrote, I am grateful for this life.
In disease and in health, our bodies tell stories. But more often than not, these stories are left unheard and unseen. A meaningful method for illuminating untold stories is through traditional/classical dance forms. Dance especially is a space for knowledge and roles to be authentically represented. For marginalized communities in particular, traditional dance has for centuries been a medium for creative expression and healing despite how circumstances and society have complicated their access to care.
Because I could not stop for death, / He kindly asked I pause. / My arms were full of sterile wraps, / Scissors, tape, and gauze.
The crumpled old gentleman nestled in the armchair of his hospital room, bundled in blankets from the warmer down the hall, cards from his family propped up like a miniature Stonehenge on the table beside him. I listened closely to his heart and lungs, eyed the half-full urinal hooked onto his bed frame, and drew my fingers along his shins.
Do you hear what I hear? / The humming of machines, / which can’t breathe, / but enable artificial ventilation for living beings.