The connection between medicine and literature is a long and noble one, including the works of Chekhov and William Carlos Williams, to name the two most readily cited. Women and men become doctors because they want to help and heal others, which are acts of compassion, and compassion is born of the imagination. To feel for others, one must be able to put one’s self in another’s place, which is what fiction writers and poets do so beautifully. And not only are doctors and other caregivers by their nature imaginative, they also face the highest highs and lowest lows of life, the very source of expression and art. While professional ethics demand restraint, medical people need an outlet for all the feelings and reflections their work engenders.
With an eye to fully preparing medical students for their demanding future, Yale University School of Medicine and University College London Medical School decided to hold a poetry contest for their students. Here’s a recap of the result, from the New York Times.