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Meeting Our Venerable Hosts

Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.

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.

In those drab johnnies that
Leave bum and back to hang in wind,
Or slightly comelier shirt and pants —
Psychiatry’s green emblem —
It somehow feels like they’re still wearing
Their Sunday best.

We rush to meet our different hosts,
Some pleasantly demented, others raring
To go outside and have a smoke.
They sit expectantly.
Well, often less by volition and more
By virtue of a tangled mess
Of IVs and
Chest leads and
Drains amidst
A klaxon-driven haze.

Their kingdom stretches to the curtains,
A poor rampart for curses and moans
That percolate from their neighbor.
On a white board there are boxes
To check off laps around the floor.
And in block letters underneath:
Unclear if query or a proclamation.

“Hang on a sec, my docs are here.”
Phones slide onto tables,
Hands scrabble at lights or a remote
And a news anchor gulps wordlessly.
I imagine an IV-laden hand
To slick down one’s hair.

The relatives at bedside quiet down,
Fragments of their conversation
Nestling in between food still
Tucked beneath a beat-up cloche.

We dabble in this daily, but still there is
A strange jubilation when our honored host
Cannot contain their glee and words escape:
“I pooped!”

What was your inspiration? Did other creative works, if any, influence your creation of this piece?

During clinical rotations, I was struck by the brief but often meaningful interactions that teams had with patients on afternoon rounds. Family and friends of the patient were more likely to be present, and it was interesting to see them all make sure they were "on," since this might be one of the few times they might see the medical team. I wanted to play with this power dynamic I observed and the image of the patient as a venerable host.

How long have you been doing this activity? What got you started? How do you relate it to your medical practice?

I have been writing poetry on and off since high school. I've never studied it formally, but I generally enjoy reading poems. For me, it's a way of stepping adjacent to clinical reasoning on patients and acknowledging the effects of our interactions, something which daily life in medicine does not easily lend itself.

Why did you choose this medium? What interests you about it?

Often, I've written poetry to process events that I may have found profound or difficult. I find that poems help capture transient moods or images in a way that is different from stories that might focus more explicitly on narration.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your involvement in or views on arts in medicine?

Medicine lends itself well to literature because it is built on stories. Poetry is just one way of expressing that that has been very helpful for me. Of the small number of patient stories I have participated in so far, some have become case reports, others essays, and still others are journal entries that are just for myself.

Wesley Chou is a third-year medical student at Harvard Medical School. He plans to apply into urology.

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