An interesting article in the NYTimes blog last month: A poetry contest was announced for Yale University School of Medicine and University College London Medical School, with the first-place prize of $1,500, donated anonymously by a patient interested in literature. They expected a handful of entries. Instead, they received 160.
Poets like John Keats, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. and William Carlos Williams were all trained as doctors. For them and other physicians of their time, reading or writing poetry required skills not that dissimilar from those employed in daily clinical work — an ability to connect emotionally with the subject, as well as careful attention to rhythm, whether it was in the form of verse or heartbeats and breathing.
“Poetry does a better job in teaching because it is about embracing the human aspect of suffering, not just knowing how many lymph nodes are positive and where the pain is on a 1-to-10 scale,” Dr. Campo said. “Reading and discussing a poem became an opportunity not only to focus on the feelings associated with illness but also to imagine themselves in their patients’ position.”
Medicine is an art, in many ways. In this generation of desensitized individuals from all the hours we spend on computers…it’s refreshing to hear about this!
Do you have a poem about experiencing the ‘art’ of medicine to share??