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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September 2016

Someone Loved Her Too

Sophia Görgens

The first mistake I made
was leaving my ID card home
in the pocket of my fleece–
the one with a zipper that broke
in Namibia and a hole stabbed
by a pencil during finals, worn
deep with worry and time.
Later, I asked someone else
to let me into the lab.
We made small talk in the hall.

Second, it was drizzling and my umbrella
knew not where it was. How poetic!
I mean to say, I forgot it too.
Morning lecture dried my frizzled hair,
and anyway, maybe cadavers like
the smell of rain.

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Our Father…

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

When I found myself alone with a family and their dying son, the familiarity and dependability of the Lord’s Prayer was the best I could muster. Not yet a family doc, I was a fresh seminary graduate, struggling as a chaplain to bring comfort in the face of impending grief. Familiar words, with which we could together come before the Almighty, seemed the best place to start.

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K. Bernstein Enduring Beauty

Enduring Beauty…Rose

Karla Bernstein

About the artist: 

“I recently retired as a nurse practitioner, having worked in women’s health since the 1970s. The mysteries of the ‘how-to’ of health and wellness filled my early professional days. As I matured within the role, I was awed that patients allowed me into some of their most intimate moments and thoughts as we worked together to identify and respond to their health challenges. I realized that it was this trusting partnership that was the foundation for a successful healthcare journey. I saw the beauty of the human body and mind within the illness and aging process. With my photography, I aspire to identify, capture and reflect the same sense of mystery and awe that resonated within me during clinical practice.”

About the artwork:

“This is one of a series of botanical images I took celebrating the beauty of our own human process of aging. While working in my garden, I thrill to the loveliness of each species’

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“Groanings Too Deep for Words”

She hadn’t been able to talk for several days. I don’t know what robbed my mom of her speech. Was morphine the culprit, with its ability to dull both mind and body? Did sheer exhaustion from laboring over each breath leave her too tired to talk? Or maybe her pain was so severe that she could not give voice to its intensity. But what she couldn’t speak with words, she spoke with groanings.

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Third Degree

Susan S. Turner

When I find a lump in my left breast I am stunned. I probably shouldn’t be surprised, but I’m immobilized. It takes me several days before I tell my partner, who has to push me into action. I get the referral from my doctor and schedule a mammogram. The radiology practice fits me into their schedule that same week, but I still have several days to sit with the unknown.

Finally the day of the appointment comes. I wait in the reception area for an hour before the X-ray technician calls my name. As we walk to the exam room, me in my usual long leg braces and aluminum forearm crutches, she is chatty and asks, “How did you get here today?”

“I took the Thruway to Exit 133,” I respond. “The office was easy to find.”

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Daniel Lee

Primum non nocere. First, do no harm.

I learned that in the first year of medical school. “Nonmaleficence” is the fancy name given to this sentiment, and it’s one of the four pillars of modern bioethics. In real life, it’s an impossible standard: We harm patients all the time. But the spirit behind the principle is what matters. Do the least possible harm to patients as they go through the medical system. Do only what is necessary. Act only when the benefits clearly outweigh the costs.

As a third-year medical student on rotation in the intensive-care unit (ICU), I admitted David, an elderly man transferred from another hospital because a severe lung infection was making it hard for him to breathe.

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schoolboys oddo

Window Seat

Anthony Oddo

About the artist: 

Anthony Oddo is a medical student in southwest Ohio. Before entering medical school, he received his degree in anthropology from Emory University, where he studied and produced ethnographic photography. When he is not pursuing his medical degree, he is traveling and volunteering around the globe with his camera in tow. He has visited and photographed places across the US and world, including Mexico, Italy and, most recently, Swaziland, Africa.

About the artwork:

“A group of young schoolboys peek through a broken window into a classroom used as a triage center for a hospital outreach in rural Swaziland. These curious, uniform-clad children spent the day participating in educational sessions on healthy lifestyles, obtaining HIV testing and receiving other medical care. For volunteers and local community members alike, the days spent at these rural homesteads are a window into each other’s lives and act as unique opportunities for all individuals to learn from one

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Dreamy Poppy Pink

In nursing school, to learn about human anatomy, we dissected stray cats. The tiny blobs and structures inside them looked more like toys than organs; at times I had difficulty telling one part from another.

When our instructor got us invited to the medical school’s Anatomy Lab that studied real people, I was excited to finally see a complete human body. Maybe there would be straight pins with little flags for each section of the heart and brain. I expected the experience to be like our Cat Lab: clinical and unemotional.

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The Penetrable Body

In 1983, the community hospital where I worked did not yet use the acronym AIDS. We used another one–FUO, for fever of unknown origin–which was emblazoned in marker on a red card on the doorjambs of certain private rooms. These rooms each had an anteroom with a sink and a hamper. This is where the donning and removal of protective suits took place. In this 4-foot-by-6-foot space between the hall and the patient’s room, the garbage cans bore biohazard symbols, and the red bags inside them were doubled and then encased in a third, clear garbage bag–to protect us, we were told.

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