Being on the verge of a New Year, our thoughts often turn to resolutions for a healthier lifestyle. In our quest for information, an often overlooked local resource is the Preston Medical Library.
According to the library’s Poet-in-Residence, Donna Doyle, “Preston Medical Library provides reference, research, and instruction for the University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, UT Medical Center, UT College of Pharmacy, area physicians, patients, and the public. Yes,the public! Few people know about Preston’s Consumer and Patient Health Information Service or that the library is open to the public.”
Being immersed in a medical setting, it wasn’t long before Doyle, an award-winning poet, began writing medical related poems about work and a medical crisis related to her personal life. Some of these poems have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and CHEST (see below).
Doyle says, “My experience as a patient and as a caregiver has been more illuminating than reading all of the academic literature regarding narrative medicine. She explains, “Proponents of narrative medicine think that close reading of literature can help healthcare providers become better “readers” of patients and can enhance empathy.”
For the past few years, Ronald Lands, MD, and Doyle have been working together “to make narrative medicine a significant component in medical education and training.”
Doyle says, “A narrative medicine elective is available to medical students and to 3rd year Internal Medicine residents. Last year, Dr. Lands and I were invited to do a narrative medicine related presentation at the American College of Physicians (ACP) Tennessee Chapter meeting. We also served as judges for TN-ACP’s first narrative medicine writing competition.
Additionally, we facilitate narrative medicine sessions as needed by Internal Medicine as part of the program’s evidence-based rotation for 1st & 2nd year residents.
Through her work with Dr. Lands, Doyle was inspired to create Literary Rounds, “a monthly reading and conversation series.”
I thought a public reading series would be a good way to support the narrative medicine component of medical education offered by UT Graduate School of Medicine. Also, I thought bringing readings to the UT Medical Center community would be a good way to help make literary writing more alive and to help make the medical environment feel less clinical. Literary Rounds guests have included writers who are also physicians, nurses, patients, and caregivers. A small portion of the series has featured speakers who focus on medical humanities. PTSD, Alzheimer’s, bipolar illness, cancer, and stroke are some of the health concerns that have been addressed.
Literary Rounds may sound like a depressing event, but it’s not. It’s a meaningful and frequently moving experience. Presenters also share creative writing about coping, stress relief, and looking for simple beauty. Doyle’s own work exquisitely relates the joys of fall leaves, a spider web, a patch of Queen Anne’s Lace, or just finding a parking space.
Doyle says, “There is no shortage of writers who are willing to share their writing in such a unique venue. However, it is difficult to keep the content focused solely on medical related writing. For 2014, I want to mix it up some. I don’t think it should be entirely medical-themed content.”
Doyle hopes future goals for Literary Rounds “include being able to offer an honorarium to the writers. I would also like to explore actually making rounds with Literary Rounds by taking it on the road – to public libraries, schools, bookstores, farmers markets, etc. – so that the series could be introduced to a wider audience.”
Literary Rounds meets at the Preston Medical Library Conference Room on the second Wednesday of each month from 4 PM – 5 PM. It is free and open to the public. The December 11 guest will be Larson Jay of Random Acts of Flowers. You can keep up with the Literary Rounds calendar on Preston Medical Library’s Facebook page.
Donna Doyle welcome ideas from the community. She can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 865-305-8776.
Easy to ignore slow steps,
meditative posture bowed over
mops and buckets while nurses
and doctors hurry around them,
appear, even on break, always
engaged in urgent business.
Easy to look away from labor
to gather, contain, recycle all
we throw away, forget the hard
scrub to remove dirt tracked,
invisible blossoms of germs,
dismiss quests to absolve surfaces
puddled by blood, spilled food.
East to remember the only person
who touched me that long night
spent awake without knowing,
the custodian who freed me, drew
me away from the wall that endured
my leaning, how she held on to me,
how all she did was hold on.
Published in CHEST Journal, February 2013
Heading Home, a collection of poems by Donna Doyle, is available on Amazon.com.
Cover photo by Donna Doyle.
© Debra Dylan, 2013.