Listening to the Voices of Medical Students in Poetry: Self, Patients, Role-models and Beyond

Johanna Shapiro, Ph.D.

Just as a physician benefits by understanding how the patient’s life and values intersect with her disease, so too medical educators need to know something about the reactions of medical students to the experience of their own education. Yet where can we discover students’ deepest thoughts and feelings about medicine? Students talk among themselves; if we are lucky, we may sometimes overhear these conversations, but often they rely on humor or a certain macho toughness to mask serious emotion and they are usually too truncated for serious insight. Faculty members are not always perceived as safe recipients for students’ doubts and disclosures, because of their evaluative functions, so that in fact, we know very little about the confusion and ambivalence, or the joys, they encounter during the course of training.

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