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The Playbook

In the playbook of professionalism,

Where is room for the physician who
Reads German poetry to the dying patient
For days and days until her end?

Is it found in the chapter on beneficence? On litigation?
Could it be found in a different text altogether?
In an oath, a speech, a short-story, a novel, a life?

A speech on Osler’s True and Perfect form:
An Imperturbability and Equanimity some may never attain
A novel about a Cunning Man and a Man of Faith
An exercise in Ceremony and Ritual some may never attend

Have I lost these more human qualities altogether?
In my words, my actions, my heart and my face?

A set of eyes open to all the suffering we witness:
An aimless attempt at meaningful connection and understanding
A seat available in the front row of the stage of life:
An empty, vacant place waiting to be filled by a warm body

In the playbook of professionalism,

There is only room for the student who
Is told to feel warm but act impartially
Is told to engage but deny over-familiarity

Where, where is room for my dear mentor in this Book of Rules?

It is found in the chapter on common sense.
It is found in the chapter on human decency.

How are medical students to balance empathy and cold, hard professionalism? This poem explores an act of beautiful kindness told to me by a mentor that doesn’t easily fit into the playbook of professionalism. We, as medical students, are taught to both feel warm and act with empathy, but keep our patients further than arm’s length. It is a critical look at how professionalism is taught and where simple human kindness begins.

Jeremy Weleff Jeremy Weleff (1 Posts)

Contributing Writer

Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine

Jeremy Weleff is an MS3 at Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. His research interests include access to healthcare and pain management in homeless adults in Detroit, Michigan, pain and palliative care education in the undergraduate medical training, and healthcare professionals' mental health and well being. Poetry is one outlet for expressing many of the uncomfortable, and sometimes absurd aspects of medicine and medical culture.