A Medical School Professor Calls It A Day

Neal Whitman

First Grade, long ago:
The bell was rung.
School’s out.
The Last Day of School!

A lie, of course.
The end of summer proved it so.
But today truly is
My Last Day of School. 
Today I retired:
took my last breath
as a professor.
But what had I professed?
First, that a preceptor without example is a vain thing. 
True teachers dare to be exemplars.
Second, that inspiration is an active process.
A principle of respiratory physiology,
but also a precept of pedagogy.
Finally, a variation of the Shaker saying–
Every breath a prayer.
Every breath a lesson.

About the poet:

Neal Whitman is a University of Utah School of Medicine Professor Emeritus now living in Pacific Grove, California, where he tootles around the Monterey Peninsula in a white hatchback with the auto plate “PG POET” set in a frame inscribed “Poetic License.” Since retiring from academic medicine in 2008, he has published over 300 Western-form and haiku poems. Neal and his wife, Elaine, collaborate on another Japanese art form, haiga, which combines imagery with haiku; Elaine’s photography and Neal’s haiku have been published in several journals and are featured in Pacific Grove’s weekly newspaper Cedar Street Times to welcome each new season.

About the poem:

“In 1987, while conducting a faculty development workshop in Canterbury, New Hampshire, Elaine and I visited its historic Shaker village and met Eldress Bertha Lindsay, the last living Shaker eldress. She held my hand and whispered, ‘Every breath a prayer.’ This came to mind in 2008 when I taught my last class, a course for public health graduate students entitled ‘The Arts and Public Health.’ “

Poetry editors:

Judy Schaefer and Johanna Shapiro

About the Poem

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

Comments

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Poems

Popular Tags
addiction alcohol addiction allergies anatomy lab bedside manner bigotry breast cancer cancer caregiver stories caregiving chemotherapy child abuse childbirth children chronic illness complementary therapies connecting with patients coping with death coping with illness coping with patient death cross-cultural health care cultural competence death and dying death of a parent dementia depression diabetes disability doctor-patient communication doctor-patient relationship doctor as patient doctor poems doctor stories drug addiction end of life end of life decision making faith family medicine forgiveness frustration with healthcare system genetic disorders geriatrics getting the news healing health care policy health care politics health insurance HIV humor ill parent immigration inequality international health labor and delivery leukemia medical errors medical student stories medical training medicine memorable patients mental health mental health professional stories mental illness military military medicine miracles miscarriage mistakes neuroscience nurse poems nurse stories ob/gyn palliative care parent stories Parkinson's disease patient-centered care patient stories pediatrics personal remembrance physician assistant stories poem poems/poetry pregnancy PTSD race realizing human mortality resident stories role modeling self care social determinants of health social issues social worker stories spirituality stress and burnout suicide surgery thanksgiving the bad doctor visuals war veteran
Scroll to Top