Annual Poetry Contest Reflects SP Education Impact on Medical Students

By Kris Slawinski

The University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine recently hosted its second annual Pritzker Poetry Contest, which was open to medical students, staff and faculty. Sixteen judges, including the Dean of the College, Assistant Dean for Medical Education, various faculty, and two students, selected winners from more than 110 submitted poems. The mission of the contest is to “foster compassionate care for our patients and to enhance the therapeutic caregiver-patient relationship throughout our medical center.”

The $1,000 award for first place for the Open Poem Entry this year was awarded to first year medical student Lindsay Poston. Second place, at $500, went to Julia Mosquada, Research Assistant in Hospital Medicine. The Six Word Poem Category first place award of $500 went to Gini Fleming, M.D., Hematology/Oncology, and $250 to Sandra Shi, third year medical student, for second place.

Many of the entries told stories of patients’ pain and fear, and celebrated their courage and somber wisdom in the face of illness and death. Many provided insights into the author’s own fears and feelings of frustration, inadequacy and sadness in watching illness conquer a patient.

Perhaps of most interest to members of ASPE are the following Six Word finalists. In “Standardized Patients,” Nisha Wadhwa, MS1, writes, “Qualifying their pain, Quantifying my empathy.” In “Clinical Poetry,” Paul Lambert, MS1, writes, “Simpler, fewer, nicer words—Clinical poetry.”

They both confirm that our work does make an impact!

“One More Cut” by Lindsay Poston

Memory slits grimace,
recalling days she was the clown
And days she sang the Morning Star
with a voice that rang
strong and clear as the morphine drip
now pinned through flailing forearm,
thinned enough to show two bones.

Belly scars inscribe a life,
of babies born, then ovaries torn,
of kidneys lost and gained.
And with the newest cut, she’s lost
a knee that bounced those giggling babes,
a leg that danced the days she sang.
Where once that sturdy leg was bent,
fresh stitches stretch flesh ‘round bone’s end.

Drip runs dry, the Morning Star fades.
One grandchild on the phone,
fighting doctors, calling home.
Saying three weeks left–
unless they carve out something new.
Amidst murmurs of some-ectomy,
anesthetized, she speaks her plea:

They just cut, cut, cut,
it ain’t nothin’ new.
They just cut, cut, cut,
where the bad cells grew.

Doctor, no,
I’m tired, I’m through.
One more cut ain’t gonna heal,
one more cut ain’t gonna do.

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