by Elijah Verheyen, MSIV


Preliminary Note
The selections below were inspired through exercises given at a Narrative Medicine course at NYULutheran Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY in 2015. The session moderator provided the first sentence of an existing work and participants would complete the thought with their own ideas. Further details provided by the author are listed below each selection:  

Today you would be working a dreary job.
Waking up early to finish a menial task,
being assessed only on completion and not performance.
Getting only a lonely paycheck, paying your timely bills,
working with no end goal in sight.
Instead, we wake up early to one day be free in our choices,
free in our decisions, working towards a rewarding pursuit
that will bring us to be driven and passionate to be working hard but without effort.

The motivation for this piece stems from the challenges of pursuing a life in medicine but with the  understanding that the prospective outcome of our training will nevertheless be rewarding.
-    Prompt:  ‘Father' from Ted Kooser in ‘Delights & Shadows'

I'm learning a lot of things in medical school but
how to be a good writer is not one of them.
The ability to step away from the objective
and learn to utilize the subjective
is something that we may gather as practicing physician…
But maintaining my ability to be creative, well spoken,
and converse outside of medicine -
is something I seem to be unlearning.

This piece was more matter-of-fact in its assertion that in the extensive time we spend reading medical journals and texts we may lose other strengths we had before such as creative writing.
-    Prompt:  Atul Gawande, ‘Being Mortal', Introduction

I think of it with wonder now
how you overcame the predictions
how you defied the odds placed against you.
With one tip of a needle your whole life changes…
But what if you had never known?
Were we better off being innocent
and letting it take us by surprise?
Instead we let the facts of our
flowing blood define our lives over our
own notions and feelings of well being.

This piece is more personal and pertains to the significance of naiveté. We as physicians are trained to respond to lab results, patients' complaints, or physical findings. Ideally, such data will yield positive prognoses but we are not always this fortunate. Regardless, we inform patients of outcomes and prognoses without ever asking if they are ready to confront those truths.
-    Prompt: ‘The Glass' by Sharon Olds