Over the next four weeks, I will share a series of essays with you in which I tell some of those stories. This writing results from the work of a summer, supported by a summer research fellowship in Medical Humanities & Bioethics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, in which I interviewed nine first-year medical students, two third-year medical students, eight anatomy and medical humanities professors, two Anatomical Gift Program staff, three palliative care clinicians, two preregistered donors and one donor’s family member.
Secret / The caterpillar munching on hair / beneath your scrub cap
Just a five-year-old kid / Yet always in and out of the hospital, / Since her first beautiful breath / Through each breath after, / With her life-giving / Yet ever-faltering lungs.
A first-year medical student’s stress and anxiety begin to take physical form as she navigates her first year of medical school.
I didn’t know / many can’t / sip coral pulpy bitter / juice from narrow glasses.
A loud cry as we enter the world. / A silent cry as we depart.
There were seven of us standing around the table as the attending surgeon debrided the infected fascia. The vascular surgeon came in the room and barked at us to identify the structures before us. “What’s that artery?” he interrogated us. “I’ll give you a hint,” he said, “there’s a deep and a superficial.” We named the sural nerve and iliotibialis band and the great saphenous vein. As we clamored around the table, I suddenly thought of the Rembrandt painting: The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp.
Just as our vernacular has embraced the language of food to describe people, so too has the medical community used such language to describe disease.
This painting is for patients and those who provide medical care who are in need of inspiration.
For Dr. Francois Luks, the pen is mightier than the sword. Armed with ink and a blank pad of paper, he begins to draw out a stomach. With a stroke here and some shading there, he deftly sketches the anastomoses of a procedural resection.
I strode down hallways, winding ‘round to meet / A sailor old and take to him his meal. / A gentle bounce in every step on beat, / This home to many always builds my zeal.
A canvas / Of delicately oiled / Skin, stretched taut