fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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October 2015

Perfect Circle

Francesca Decker

“You drew a perfect circle!” she exclaims.
I nod and smile as I explain,
“Yes, well, thank you…
And now this circle is a plate.
Half is vegetables.
A quarter is starch or sugar.
A quarter is protein–meat, dairy, eggs, or beans.”
Now she nods and smiles.
We discuss her diabetes,
asking her son to help her do weekly foot exams.
She has lost weight.
I give heartfelt congratulations.
Before she leaves, my attending tells her
about a local food truck
selling fresh fruit and vegetables.
As she climbs down from the exam table,
she grins again and declares,
“Boy, I’m just impressed with you!”

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lastdragonfly yorke

Last Dragonfly

Stephen Yorke

About the artist: 

“I have been involved with Pulse as a web developer and technology advisor since Pulse’s inception in 2008, and I’ve greatly enjoyed working with the Pulse team. Although ignorant of the narrative medicine movement until working with Paul Gross, Diane Guernsey and others, I have come to understand the important role that narrative, art and image play in humanizing health care. Indeed, reading the stories and poems, seeing the images, and reading the haiku over the past seven years was important in helping me to provide care and comfort to my elderly father in the last few years of his life.”

About the artwork:

“Towards the end of a brilliant end-of-summer day, I ran across this solitary dragonfly seemingly sunning itself on a branch overhanging the water’s edge of Glenwood Lake in New Rochelle, NY, where I live. I was struck by its serene, contempletive

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Lost in the Hospital

Christine Henneberg

It’s easy to get lost in the hospital. I’m only an intern, and already I know it like the hallways of my old high school, every doorway and doorknob. But overnight, as I float between the floors and the units, answering pages, I quickly lose track of where I am, what time it is, what day it is.

I am vaguely aware that I’m on the fifth floor, the top floor of the hospital, when the nurse approaches me.

“Doctor, the patient in Bed 32.”

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Ritual Healing

Joseph Fennelly

In recent years the medical profession has witnessed a surge in burnout and depression among physicians and other health professionals. Efforts have been made to address this–for example, by offering Schwartz Center Rounds, in which caregivers openly and honestly discuss the social and emotional issues they face. Health professionals can also reduce stress through counseling, meditation or massage, or through practical steps such as cutting back on their working hours.

In the most traumatic cases–those marked by the death of the patient–physicians have yet another powerful source of comfort and emotional support. This support, offered by the patient’s family, comes within a context that allows the caregiver to accept it without forfeiting professionalism.

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Leaves of Grass

Paul Helzer

About the artist: 

Paul Helzer received his MFA at Hunter College in New York. As an optic artist, he examines qualities of peripheral experiences. Since becoming a full-time cinematographer, he has travelled globally as a director of photography on documentary, narrative and commercial projects. He and his wife and business partner, Alana, live in Bolinas, CA.

About the artwork:

“This image of grass was taken using a camera obscura (‘dark room’ in Latin). The image a camera obscura projects is reversed and upside-down, which  was true of this image before being digitally corrected. Only the center is in focus. The topsy-turvyness of this image-making process reflects the experience my wife and I have had with the healthcare system in trying to have a baby. We’ve felt upside-down and backwards, uncertain of what the future holds. It’s frustrating that the system which seems to offer us a solution

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Kendra Peterson

July first Fellow,
a pager blares announcing
my initiating consult, a 29-year-old
(just my age)
malignant melanoma
and a first-time seizure
while receiving an infusion
of experimental treatment.

When I arrive
she’s already gotten
two milligrams of ativan
dilantin load is hanging
and I examine
a somnolent young woman
now coming ’round,
could be my friend, my sister, me,

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Ten-Minute Miracle

Melissa Zhu Murphy

On Mother’s Day 2007, as I was finishing my freshman year at Vanderbilt University, I joined my parents for a warm, happy reunion in an Italian restaurant, celebrating both the day and the completion of my first year of premedical studies.

My father was blissfully breathing in the steam wafting up from his ravioli in lobster cream sauce as my mother prepared to dig into an enormous plate of basil penne pasta with spicy meatballs.

I took a bite of crusty Italian bread and lifted a forkful of manicotti to my mouth, getting ready to describe how hard I’d had to study for my biology and chemistry finals. Then I realized that something was wrong.

Very wrong.

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deserted streets stumbar

Through Our Eyes #5 (Deserted Streets)

submitted by Sarah Stumbar

About the series: 

“From August through December 2013, as part of a social medicine project I met with a group of four teenage girls in the third-floor conference room of a Bronx family health center. Over healthy snacks we discussed topics relevant to growing up as a girl in this Bronx community: obesity, violence, exercise, access to green spaces, relationships, body image and sexuality–complex issues which gave them an opportunity to voice their dreams for themselves and their community. Each girl was given a disposable camera and asked to take photographs of her neighborhood. This photograph is one of these. The collective voice of these young women teaches us that, even in deserted streets and playgrounds, they are able to find beauty and hope. They remind us of the importance of giving all young people a voice as a way of fostering their growth and resiliency.”

About the artwork:

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