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“No One Learns in the Middle of a Crisis”

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A Poem by Karlie Haug

Image: Piyapong89/Shutterstock


No one learns in the middle of a crisis.
and yet here we are, neck deep,
drowning in
books. Tears.
Lives that are not our own.
Tied to those we will never see again.
Evaluations based on a passing
Moment. A presentation. A stumble.

We come home, not responsible for this day
but affected by the lives we’ve touched
Like finger to flame
Like skin to scalpel
knowing that they won’t remember us.

Itsworthit itsworthit itsworthit
I say in synchrony with each step,
willing it to be so in the dark
moments knowing that
it is. I think.
finding that feeling I first had when I got in
remembering the girl who
skipped 1.4 miles down Central Avenue
singing godknowswhat at the top of her lungs
out of joy.

On the genesis of this poem

I was 2 weeks out from Step 1 and hitting a wall mentally. When I’ve gotten frustrated in the past, I remind myself of how I felt when I first got in and why I want to be here. Poetry has always been a release for me and I realized I hadn’t really written anything during med school. So when I paused studying for a moment, this all flowed out surprisingly quickly and easily.

On the value of poetry

I’ve been writing poetry since second or third grade. At first it was always school-assigned, but as I’ve gotten older it’s turned into a reflective activity. A lot of my personal journal entries end up being free form poetry because it’s often more natural than writing complete thoughts and sentences. I find that poetry pours out at inconvenient times, on the precipice of sleep, in the shower, while cooking. It’s become a way to process difficult patient encounters or percolate emotions and tough decisions.

On creativity and medicine

Creative endeavors can be rejuvenating and increase physician resiliency. I believe that they are tremendously important to better mental health and making connections between us. Art outside of medicine improves the art in medicine.

Karlie Haug is a 4th year medical student at the University of Michigan Medical School. She will be applying into General Surgery residency in the fall. When not at the hospital, she enjoys soccer, hiking, spending time with friends and family, and procrastibaking.

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