Series: Patient Interviews

Alexandra Rosenberg

1. (PHQ-9: Screen for Depression)

“Depressed? Course I’m depressed.
My wife died ten years ago.
My son? Well…
He does the best he can for me.”

2. (DNR)

“What’s that you call it?
No ma’am.
No way to die.
Just call my daughter,
give me some pills–
I’ll go easy.”

3. (Suicide Attempt)

“I’ve got two voices in my head
Chuck and Butch
Chuck’s not so bad, but Butch….
I like Chuck, I don’t want him to go away.
But things got bad,
My girlfriend left me.
My head was
a too-loud radio station
–can’t turn it off.
I took a bunch of pills
Bought a gun. I was going to do it.
But my mom got home early that day.
She took me here.

It’s been great here.
I saw, maybe, twelve doctors today.
Everyone’s so nice to me here.
They explain everything.”

4. (OB/GYN Well-Woman Visit at a Free Clinic)

“How’m I doing today?
I’m having a fit, that’s what!
That nurse put me on the scale
First time in who knows how long,
           –179 pounds!
I haven’t been that big
Since my last baby!

Other than that?
Guess I’m doing OK.
Just lazy–-that’s my real problem.
Just lazy.”

5. (An Old Doctor Lectures Medical Students About Work-Life Balance)

“We thought we were so tough, back then.
We were strong men,
But in ten years, we turned to alcohol,
Saw our marriages broken
Our lives in pieces.
My wife and children were the most important things
–I knew that–
But I gave my best time and energy to Duke.”

About the poet:

Alexandra Rosenberg is a fourth-year medical student at Duke University School of Medicine. Originally from New York, she is currently enjoying the balmy Durham winter with her husband, Trey, her dog, Lady Bird, and her cat, Kitty.

About the poem:

“This poem is based on conversations I’ve had in a variety of clinical settings in medical school. I am grateful to be going into medicine, in part because of the myriad opportunities to engage with a diverse group of people during both trivial and profound moments in their lives.”

Poetry editors:

Johanna Shapiro and Judy Schaefer

Call for Entries​

Pulse Writing Contest​​

"On Being Different"

About the Poem


4 thoughts on “Series: Patient Interviews”

  1. Number 4 really spoke to me. When my mother was in the end stages of emphysema and could barely stand and walk a few steps without gasping for breath, I would take her to her doctors’ appointments. When the doctor would ask her how she was doing, she would invariably say “I have been feeling pretty lazy lately.”
    I think this poem is a reflection of a medical student who will make a very caring physician because she is really listening and picks on the subtle and touching ways patients ask for help.

  2. What a fantastic reflection of the unifying inner struggle. We feel so alone in dealing with stress and trauma but Alex reminds us of the many people like herself that are out there listening and caring. Thanks Alex for a beautiful glimpse into the challenges of your specialty!!

  3. Poetry?
    I remember hearing the conversation about “but is it art?”
    De gustibus no es disputandum.
    The good news — I think — is that a 4th year at a good school already has an inkling about how practice and misery coincide. Remember, misery is a choice.
    You’ll have no excuses when you ask yourself,

  4. This poem deeply resonated with me. People may look and seem different, but we are all the same when the layers are stripped away. Depression affects everyone, some worse than others. I pray that a day will come when people can accept themselves for who they are–and when depression can be accepted as a disease that deserves real medical treatment, not a scarlet badge of shame.

Leave a Comment

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

More Poems


Popular Tags
Scroll to Top