A plea for poetry in medical practice

I was pleased as punch to peruse New York Times executive editor Bill Keller’s delightful essay on the relevance of poetry, I Yield My Time to the Gentleman From Stratford-Upon-Avon. Here Keller expounds on the relative weight that a seemingly small, insignificant seminar carried in his course of summer study at the Wharton School of Business.

In my book we would do well to advocate for the inclusion of poetry in the medical curriculum—for largely the same reasons.  more»

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4 comments on “A plea for poetry in medical practice

  1. I so agree! Michael Mayne tragically died from cancer in 2006, but not before heroically putting the finishing touches to his final book The Enduring Melody. This started as a meditation of his life, but when the cancer struck it became his daily meditations interwoven into an autobiography of his final year. The book is a brave and very thoughtful journal through those last ten months. It culminates in a reflective essay on illness and healing, and the need for a holistic approach. ‘To treat a disease,’ he said:

    “is to inhibit it and hopefully help the body to destroy it or control it: to treat a patient is to observe, foster, nurture and listen to a life…In an ideal [health service] it would be good if every doctor and nurse in training would reflect on the mystery of the human being with both the learning of the scientist and the observation and sympathy of the novelist or the poet.”

  2. Allan M. Bedashi says:

    Mr. Maurer,

    What a refreshing article. I have always thought that poetry can be married with the medical sciences. I have prcaticed in the medical field for the past 32 years, first as a Navy Corpsman then as a PA. I have also been a PA eduator for the past 10 years. I have been writing poetry since I was 12 and my topics vary from romance, to ethics, social issues, and real life patient encounters. There is a lesson in each poem. As a PA educator I use my poetry in the classroom to relate and emphasize ethics, morality and plain old empathy. I also tell each student that within him or her is a poem waiting to be written. I think it is great to promote this idea.

    BTW, have you thought about putting together an anthology of poems written by PAs and PA students? Please count me in if you do. Keats, like Shelly, was one of the greatest romantic poets, and he happens to be my favorite.

    Best wishes!

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