by Jordan Ondoy, MSIV


Preliminary Note: These selections were written during a Narrative Medicine course at NYU/Lutheran Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY in 2016. Participants were given the first sentence of an existing work as a writing prompt and would then complete the thought with their own ideas. Further details from the author are listed below each selection.



Today, I could be spending time
With family and friends whom I miss dearly
Instead, in pursuit of my dreams
I'm spending time with patients
All ill, some near death, as they look to me
For diagnoses/prognoses, treatment options, a cure…
Most importantly, for HOPE
So, even though I'm not spending time
With my own family and friends
I find fulfillment in knowing
I provide that hope
To my patients, their families, their friends

  • Source: ‘Father' from ‘Delights & Shadows' by Ted Kooser, in which a child tells of his father who was able to die in dignity. My take on the prompt expresses insight into the costs and rewards of pursuing my dream of becoming a physician.



I'm learning a lot of things in medical school but will it be enough? I chose this career path, this lifelong decision, this vocation, with the idealistic, albeit cliché, desire to save lives. Will I reach a point where all the education and medical know-how taught to us to "save lives" will reach a dead end? Of course. Of course it will. Medicine is a limitless, ever-changing field. There is no way for anyone to fully master the ability to save lives. That is something I need to acknowledge and accept. So I guess the more important thing to ponder is whether medical school has taught me the ability to know my limits, to know the limitations of modern medicine, and to fully understand that the objective of "saving lives" isn't always achievable. Even so, I still have to wake up the next day and know I've been as equipped as possible to handle what's thrown my way. I still have to strive to do my best each and every day.

  • Source: Introduction from ‘Being Mortal' by Atul Gawande which explores the notion that as physicians, we have limits. My take on the prompt was an analysis of my own grasp of the limits of medical practice that await me.



What am I doing inside?
Or at least trying to think
But trying not to over-think
While allowing all of my surroundings to be felt
To be examined
To be heard

A lot of times I find myself caught in a struggle
Between my analytical self and my sensing self
Hoping to find the balance between the two
But realizing
That in this clinical setting
The analytical takes precedence
By the innate nature with which we've been programmed
To do our job of making the most accurate diagnoses
To do what we know
Or what we think we know
As "medicine."

  • Source: ‘Soul' by David Ferry. I saw his poem as a look into the mind, emotions, and soul of someone who has lost someone they loved. It began with the line "What am I doing inside this old man's body?" I, in turn, decided to take a more literal approach to the prompt.