Many a medical student experiences the social isolation and high stakes that come with medical education. Sometimes we lose ourselves. Sometimes we lose our patients.
And then sometimes there is that inspiring encounter with a stranger, that heartfelt visit by an old friend or that implicit understanding with a cancer patient which reels you back to shore. Sometimes there is not.
At the time of this writing, I am three days shy of graduating from medical school. I stayed afloat in those darker moments by rewinding my mental tape in the form of poems to relive the memory of that stranger, friend, patient. Relive why I snap my body up at the first two rings of my 4 a.m. alarm and power through 14-hour ward days and countless exams.
In this Summer issue of The New Physician, we will find a collection of poetry, short stories and photography, submitted by our nation’s medical students, that help relive important memories. We will meet deservedly celebrated characters within the following memoirs, photos and poems; characters who have inspired our authors, reeled them back to shore, and who constantly reel them back to shore.
As a contributor to the 2012 Creative Arts Collection, I am grateful and impressed at the submissions we have received this year. As I read each piece glimpsing what moves each author, I forget that what we are are white-coated operators in this large labyrinth of a healthcare system. I am reminded that first and foremost, who we are are passionate human beings.
To take note from Czech writer Kundera, the word “compassion” in Czech, Polish, and German is formed from the prefix “with” (–com) and the word for “feeling.” Thus, to experience compassion is to “feel with” or empathize with another shoulder-to-shoulder, rather than merely acknowledge another’s suffering and sympathize from above. The key is to be able to “feel.”
On behalf of staff at The New Physician, I would like to thank everyone who submitted a piece. Keep writing, keep sharing, keep feeling. For to become a compassionate physician, one must be a passionate individual first.
Christine Cheng, M.D.
Editorial Adviser 2013–2014 academic year