A Poem: Primary Care Medicine Is like a Box of Chocolates

A Poem & Conversation With Dr. Dana Corriel

Forrest Gump was on to something when, sitting on his bench, he said, “Life is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get.” Now, some of you may argue that the brand of chocolates also contributes to just how the experience turns out, we’ll leave this aspect to a different post.

As an internist (a #tweeternist, as we now call it on Twitter), Forrest, so goes our day in primary care.

As I sit on my own ‘work bench’ (unlike yours, mine’s likely brimming with bacteria and other goodies), wearing my white doctor’s coat — reflecting on my day, just like you — I think to myself how applicable this phrase has become, in my day in primary care.

The passersby come and go in such a variable way that I, too, never quite know what I’m going to get.

So here’s a little glimpse at my own side of things, from the doctor’s seat, and with a little Dr. Seussian flare. Why? Because it’s my site. And because here, on this forum, I can.

Primary Care Medicine is Like A Box of Chocolates

Backache in room one,
She comes in with a plea -
“It radiates down the leg,” she says,
“To just above my knee.”

Room Two is waiting next,
He says he should be quick.
He’s following up, but needs assurance
That he’s no longer sick.

Although he’s been squeezed in,
He brings up three more things,
And though I rush through all the rest,
To every word he clings.

Room one and four have coughs,
They’ve hacked, and spewed up phlegm.
They both prefer a med that works
For sleep in the PM.

A pre-op is up next,
Her surgery’s next week.
I want her cleared — of course I do -
But how? She’s feeling weak.

Oh wait, there’s a commotion -
A patient’s fallen ill!
She’s vasovagal-ed, false alarm,
But kind of scary still.

We’ve got a bleeder next:
Like faucet, from the nose.
We’ll hold the pressure for a while,
And rid him of his woes.

“A phone call from a doc!”
I hear, from down the hall.
And though I’m busy — truly so -
I have to take that call.

In room three now there’s crying:
A patient deep in pain.
She’s in the dumps, and feels depressed,
And blames financial strain.

A chest pain right next door,
Now needs my full attention.
But so does fainting, bleeding, cough -
I’m pulled in each direction!

Up next comes teacher Sally,
Who’s coming for advice -
She wants some treatment for the lice
She’s had not twice, but thrice.

And so my day continues,
Surprise behind each door.
It’s hard work, but I love it so -
I’m always back for more.

So next time at your visit,
Keep all of this in mind,
Although, at times, your doctor’s late,
Be patient, warm and kind.

What inspired this piece and why did you choose to write about this as a poem?

My writing encompasses all genres, as I constantly seek to explore different outlets for my creativity. I’m a very colorful person, in real life, and this translates into the need to stretch out my senses and experiment. This poem summarized the hectic day in the life of a primary care doctor, as well as the variety of presentations we see behind our exam room doors. It’s truly fascinating, and it’s worth a share.

How did you get into poetry? How does this relate to your medical practice?

Poetry is another fun way to express myself. When I think of a way to rhyme emotions, it makes the experience even more emotional, in a sense. Think of Dr. Seuss — or Theodor Seuss Geisel, as my 7-year old loves to call him — and the emotions that his famous rhyming stories elicit. I think of him every time that I come up with a successfully humorous line. My own poem reflects on my practice in that, with each new paragraph comes a brand new symptom and diagnosis, just as opening each door in the real life office reveals a new patient with his or her own symptom and diagnosis.

Can you tell us about your book project?

I am working on a book project that’s a compilation of stories from female physicians. It is a work in progress and is still in its submission phase. I am also working on my own book, piecing together interesting aspects of motherhood and medicine, and the role of social media in today’s delivery of medicine — the good and the bad, and where we as physicians fit in.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your writing or other creative outlets?

I advocate for mixing medicine with creativity. I believe that, through this mix, we can become better clinicians. We can also better empathize. Because of this, and because art adds both texture and flavor to my life, I will never be able to practice without it. Visit my other work: iPhone photography on Instagram: www.instagram.com/drcorriel, commentaries on website: www.drcorriel.com, and tweets on none other than Twitter: www.twitter.com/drcorriel.

Dana Corriel, MD, is a board-certified internist, who heads the clinic at Pearl River Internal Medicine. She also serves as the Director of Quality for Highland Medical, PC. When Dr. Corriel is not ‘doctoring’, she is a mother to three rambunctious boys. In her spare time, she enjoys crafting commentaries on her website, as well as initiating discussion on social media that are central to the field of medicine. Her goal is to humanize the face of medicine.

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