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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January 2018

kjmunro Why Are You Alive

Why Are You Alive?

Katherine J. Munro

About the artist:

Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Katherine Munro now lives in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. She is a membership secretary for Haiku Canada and an associate member of the League of Canadian Poets. She has two leaflets with Leaf Press and co-edited Body of Evidence: A collection of killer ‘ku, an anthology of crime-related haiku.


About the artwork:


“Years after emergency surgery that saved my life, graffiti poses the question I still can’t answer….This photograph was taken in the winter of 2002 in Vancouver. I was walking downtown on a visit to that city when the words caught my eye. This became the title of a prose piece–“Why Are You Alive?“–that appeared in the More Voices feature of Pulse, but also stands alone as a thought-provoking question.”

Visuals editor:

Sara Kohrt

Why Are You Alive? Read More »

Ninety-one Pages Over Thirty-two Hours

My friend Joy was an indomitable trauma nurse. She never minded taking on the most challenging patients. She and I worked together in the ER for six years, and no amount of blood or guts could scare her off. When EMTs brought in a gory-looking accident victim, Joy was always the first one in the room, cutting off the patient’s clothes, taking vital signs, starting IV fluids, connecting monitors, noting injuries… The only thing Joy hated was paperwork.

Ninety-one Pages Over Thirty-two Hours Read More »

Three Kinds of Paperwork

There are three kinds of paperwork in my office.

The first kind of paperwork, the one the phrase evokes, is really mostly computer work. Although my shifts often run late, I don’t mind the time actually spent in the exam room with patients. The exhaustion hits as I finish a four-hour sprint only to realize that I have another one to two hours of documentation work. Then add on answering messages, dealing with lab results and filling out forms (some of which are on actual paper), and I can feel the joy of my job leaking away into mute surrender.

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A Stranger Comes to Town

Syed M. Ahmed ~

Twenty-five years ago, having completed my family-medicine residency, I left Houston to start a two-year stint practicing in a remote village of fewer than 2,000 souls in the Appalachian Mountains of Ohio.

The day I arrived at my new workplace (a two-person practice in the only clinic for fifty miles), my new colleague Dr. Jones told me that she was leaving the next day on a two-week vacation.

Hearing this, I felt anxious, to say the least. I’d expected her to take time off, but so soon? Also, not only were this Appalachian town and its folks completely unknown to me, and vice-versa, but I was the first Asian physician to come to those parts.

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Fear No Evil

Scott Janssen ~

“You need to get here now!” The nurse whispers anxiously. It’s after midnight. One of our hospice patients has just died at home, and her husband is threatening to shoot himself when the funeral home shows up.

“Has the funeral home been called?” I ask.


“Does he have a gun or weapon?”

“We’re out in the country. There are deer heads on the wall.”

I try not to stereotype, but deer heads are a giveaway. There are probably lots of guns.

Fear No Evil Read More »

chronic target practice

Chronic Target Practice

Karnjit Sarai

About the artist:

Karnjit Sarai was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of eighteen. Now twenty-four, she is the provincial advocate for Diabetes Canada and uses art to explain what it’s like to live with the disease.

About the artwork:

“Living with type 1 diabetes is much like archery: It’s all about your targets. I regularly walk around with a quiver of test strips at my disposal. When I test my blood sugar, some days I consistenly hit the bull’s-eye, but most days, I’m all over the place.”

Visuals editor:

Sara Kohrt

Chronic Target Practice Read More »

The Gifts of Grief

In March 2017, my son died of a heroin overdose. He was twenty-five years old.
It began with his use of recreational drugs in his early teens. Before long, he was addicted to prescription opioids. And, finally, heroin.
Watching my beloved child slowly destroy himself was a heart-wrenching experience, almost as devastating as facing the finality of his death.

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Walking Each Other Home

Allie Gips ~

Winter in New England and
night replaces afternoon, darkness wraps the streets while we are all still inside.
There are no windows in the Emergency Department anyway
except of course the window into this city–the stream of women with bruised arms
and orbits that they will not explain, the revolving door of opiate addicts
nodding off, crying out, praying for forgiveness, the chronic-pain patients who rip
apart all of your idealism and ambition, trade it in for a one-time hit of oxy.

Walking Each Other Home Read More »

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