This is part of the Medical Humanities series on Op-Med, which showcases creative work by Doximity members. Do you have a creative work related to your medical practice that you’d like to share? Send it to us here.
when we tell her, her daughters gather around her like trembling wings
and then, as the minutes go by, they become pillars protective
afterwards, we look at the images again
i trace the ducts with a fingertip, ignoring the blemish
focusing on the branches of this magnificent tree
that weekend, i curl into my mom laying my head on her lap
mammogram mama-gram mama
What was your inspiration? Did other creative works, if any, influence your creation of this piece?
When I was a third-year medical student, I spent two weeks at the hospital’s breast cancer center. There were a number of powerful moments, and this is one that still stays with me — a mother receiving a terrible diagnosis with her daughters by her side. Every once in a while, I still think of them, hoping that it all turned out OK.
How did you get started writing poetry?
When I was in second grade, someone visited my class and did a poetry workshop with us. I ended up falling in love with poetry and have been writing ever since. Even as a busy pre-med and medical student, I made sure to stay engaged with the poetry world, and I'm so glad that I nurtured this part of my life. It's brought me so much joy over the years.
Why do you enjoy poetry?
Poetry is my favorite type of writing. I love that poems allow us to say so much with so few words. Some of my favorite poets include Maya Angelou, Frank O'Hara, and Rumi. In fact, during my last year of medical school, I decided that I wouldn't do a residency. There's a whole long story behind my decision, but ultimately, it came down to me wanting a career where my creative and storytelling skills would be front and center. Even though I decided not to practice medicine, there are still so many experiences from my time in medical school that I like to reflect on and write about in my poetry.
Slavena Salve Nissan is a 2020 graduate of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She was introduced to poetry as a second grader, and it was love at first sight. Her work has been published in Hektoen International, The Healing Muse, Pulse, and The Pharos.
Illustration by Jennifer Bogartz