Letters from the Editors of MLM
We are proud to publish the 10 year anniversary of the Medical Literary Messenger. As we reflect over the last decade, we are deeply grateful for the contributors and the reviewers who allow the MLM to both grow and survive.
Contained herein is a snapshot of the poetry, prose and images that highlight our first decade, through the start-up years, a pandemic and shrinking budgets. These are stories of our humanity and shared experiences in and around the healing environment.
As the project continues to grow and mature, we welcome new contributors and new editorial team members. We also welcome feedback from our readers on how to make the MLM more relevant, inclusive and relatable. The journey continues…
Gonzalo Bearman MD, MPH
Editor in Chief
Medical Literary Messenger
We are thrilled to bring you this long-awaited volume of the VCU Medical Literary Messenger. I am struck by the way some of the themes in our volume (waiting, adjusting to a new reality) mimic our process of creating this issue. With tides shifting in our own lives, we have enjoyed the ebbing of some roles and the flowing of others into our team. How lucky we are to have Priscilla Cash step into the role of Managing Editor. She has been a driving force in this issue, pulling our labor of love forward to publication. We hope that the striking visual art and powerful imagery within the written word of our issue bring you time for reflection, emotion, and peace.
We at MLM have spent the past two years riding the waves of the pandemic. Many of us work on the front lines, and there have been times since our last edition was published where the work has all but swallowed us up. While this edition has been delayed in its publication, it comes as a welcome reprieve and a source of reflection. Finding the narrative connections, the art, provides a soothing structure to the chaos. In this edition, you will find beautiful poems and prose, not just about COVID-19, but about our lives and health. I hope you take some extra time to regard the visual art in this edition. We are especially excited to showcase the work of a fourth-year medical student at VCU who reflected in cartoons her experience learning medicine for the first time in the middle of a pandemic. Encouraging the artistic reflection of learners in medicine is one of my greatest pleasures as an educator, and we hope you enjoy this and all the pieces in this issue as much as we do. Wishing all of our readers good health and clean hands.
In these strange and trying times, so many have turned to the arts and humanities for reflection, resilience, and comfort. Many of us here at the Medical Literary Messenger have been busy on the front lines against the current pandemic, including our Editor, Dr. Gonzalo Bearman, who has served as a leader in this fight at our institution and our state. After missing our Spring issue, what a comfort it is for us to return with this Fall/Winter edition. Allow yourself some moments of familiar reflection in these stories of personal or family illness. The pandemic has given bloom to beautiful works, several of which we feature in this issue. As a healthcare worker, I am especially drawn to pieces in this issue directly addressing us. A note from a husband to the surgeon who will be operating on his wife. A message of courage to healthcare workers during the pandemic. We at MLM are grateful to our authors and readers for allowing us the joy of curating this issue in a time when joy sometimes escapes us: Thank you!
Stories from the Pandemic: VCU Internal Medicine Grand Rounds
Once a year, VCU Internal Medicine holds a storytelling Grand Rounds hosted by Dr. Megan Lemay honoring the value of stories to our work in healthcare. This year, we chose to feature Stories from the Pandemic. We shared stories of the personal impact of the current pandemic from multiple perspectives. Three front line physicians, a world-renowned epidemiologist and emeritus professor at the center of the pandemic, and a patient who endured 29 days of hospitalization for COVID-19 share their stories. In a time where information swirls around us like a hurricane, stories are anchor points that can be used to highlight what we truly wish to communicate. We hope you enjoy this recording of the Grand Rounds from 5/14/20.
It is our pleasure to bring you this edition of the . In reviewing this edition, I am struck by the breadth of ages the authors cover. Some pieces center around childhood (a child’s ear mauled by a dog) and others about those nearing the end of life (a nonagenarian who shares her expired chocolates). After reading the edition, I would encourage you to view again the cover artwork of Dr. Neacy. The starkness of the white and black against the background of these stories of beginnings and ends is striking. We hope this pairing of visual and written art brings new light and meaning to them both.
With our twelfth edition of the , we are pleased to include so much reflection from health care workers. As providers, we get a glimpse into the deepest, most intense part of patients’ lives in ways that are so impactful. A shocking encounter with a grieving father, a difficult conversation had through an electronic translator, the abnormal rhythms of the heart translated beautifully into poetry—moments we often seek out and dread at the same time. We hope you find your own meaning and connection in this edition
In this edition of the , you will find a beautiful juxtaposition of written word and visual expression. You will find stunning descriptions of pain, diagnosis, and healing paired with organs and disease made alive in visual art. A reader can imagine some of the same conditions and diseases considered and reflected upon in these two separate media by the writers and artists. When you view the artwork, you realize how fascinating and mysterious the human body is. I would encourage readers to spend time with the visual works and recall the images as they read through stories of hurt and healing.
This spring, we held our first Medical Grand Rounds in storytelling. Four physicians shared their stories of loss, growth, and new realizations. This prompted me to reflect on the great importance of stories in medicine. We learn through stories, teach through stories, and most importantly connect to each other through stories. I hope you find the connections with patients, caregivers, and families in this edition of the . This edition also contains our second feature of VCU Internal Medicine residents’ reflections- this time in haiku style. Perhaps reading this edition will prompt you to write your own story.
In this edition of the you will find stories of illness and wellness appealing to the senses—the taste of wine or another unfinished dinner, the sound of a phone in the middle of the night, the things that draw the eye in the room of a dying boy. We feature our first reflection from the VCU Internal Medicine residency program’s blog. Winter brings time for rest and reflection, and we hope this edition may bring you both.
With great joy, we bring you this edition of the . It brings a reminder that there is, in fact, joy to be found in medicine and illness. The tenderness of a nurse’s touch, the rhythm of a dance, the encouragement of a friend. Take some time with the beautiful photos of a medical relief trip to Honduras, our first photo essay featured in MLM. Of course, with joy comes her sister sorrow. The loss of a patient, a spouse, or the loss of yourself in an illness. We hope these stories and poems help you experience the full spectrum of emotion innate to medicine.
We are delighted to publish this edition of the . In this edition, we explore medicine and the healing arts through heavy doses of poetry, a shift from prior publications. We hope that you find the content moving and meaningful. Thank you to our diverse contributors. And, as always, Dear Reader, thank you for making the Medical Literary Messenger a relevant voice in both medicine and the humanities.
When reading this edition of the , I am struck by reflection- how art reflects life, how the end reflects the beginning, and what we choose to reflect upon when we experience medicine as patients or professionals. Please enjoy what I consider to be some of the finest visual art and photography featured in our publication thus far, as well as poetry and prose bursting with imagery and feeling. May it offer you the same time for reflection it offered me.
We are proud to publish this edition of the . As we continue to grow, choosing among the submissions has become increasingly difficult. To help, we have added Dr. Megan Lemay, Assistant Professor of Medicine at VCU, as our Associate Editor. As you explore this edition of the Medical Literary Messenger, we hope that the stories, poems, and images will inspire you to pause and reflect on medicine and the human condition.