Departure from the Darkness and the Cold
The Hope of Renewal for the Soul of Medicine in Patient Care
In the midst of the cold and dark in the current practice of medicine there is a glimmer of hope called the soul of medicine - comprehensive, compassionate, patient-clinician interactions focused solely on the needs of the patient - that can warm and enlighten both patients and clinicians. This book consists of essays and poems describing patient-clinician interactions exhibiting the soul of medicine. Though coming from different viewpoints, both the general public and medical personnel can be enlightened from what they read. The general public has the opportunity to witness the lifting of the veil that shades the lives of clinicians and their loved ones - and from that observation, to occasionally understand why patients are treated as they are. For medical practitioners, what is read offers the possibility of hope - knowing there are at least some ongoing manifestations of the soul of medicine, and how to be like them.
Every story and poem written in this book is true. Readers of any background can grasp the astounding nature of events that occur in the practice of medicine: the evolution of a doctor from being in the lowest 10 percent of his first year medical school class to being bestowed an Emeritus Professor designation upon his retirement; a cardiologist carrying for the rest of his young life the haunting image of a patient dead on the floor after a treadmill; a physician routinely working into the night having a son asking of the child's mother, "Did daddy die?"; a young pregnant woman joyously and tearfully offering a hand to her husband after their physician told them the congenital cardiac abnormality she had would not threaten the delivery of their first child; and, pre-medical and medical students, and all types of people in medical training, learning how, and how not, to treat patients - and experience the beauty of caring for them.
What this book offers as it is read is an opportunity for readers of all kinds to meet both the horror and the wonder of medical practice, and observe clinicians doing their best to serve their patients - in the presence of the soul of medicine, to the warmth and light of all.
REVIEWS and WORDS OF PRAISE
You will sometime soon, whether you are physician or patient, or God help you both, find yourself in the throes of a heavy sadness no one can fathom. There cannot be, you are certain, anyone on this dear Earth, nor in the Seventh Circle of Hell, suffering as you are. Just as there cannot exist anyone who could possibly sympathize. This is where poetry works best. Well, some poetry. A book of poetry written not to win some award, nor to gain academic advancement, nor to promote that latest round of talks, seminars, or coffees that the poet finds only too late empties the soul. You want understanding, courage to rise from the dirt of disgrace and continue. You have that book in your hands. Dr. Hergott, out of a personal loss few of us could survive whole, somehow found that strength, fashioned it into the sword of art, and offers it to you. One of life's greatest tragedies is missed opportunity. Don't pass up this one.
--Michael A. LaCombe, MD, FACP, MACP, FRCP (London), LHD (hon.), Poetry Editor, Annals of Internal Medicine
For those of us at the University of Colorado, we have long known and long cherished the soulful writing of Dr. Larry Hergott. With this collection, many other readers—patients, colleagues, students, leaders—can now peer into a medical life well lived and a writing life finely wrought. Dr. Hergott is the embodiment of a healer, one who attends with respect and compassion to the pain and suffering of others. He knows our vulnerabilities because he himself has experienced great loss as a father, a physician and a friend. He has the courage to be authentic and empathic, and I can't think of any moment in our culture when we needed the balm of his words and the example of his caring more than now.
--Therese Jones, PhD, Associate Director for the Center for Bioethics and Humanities, University of Colorado; Editor, Journal of Medical Humanities
This book, artfully written, has the potential to change how you view medicine and life, as a doctor or a patient. Dr. Hergott's writing has profoundly influenced my view of medicine - of how truly virtuous scientific medicine can, and must, be practiced with compassion. Dr. Hergott has written achingly beautiful poems and essays reflecting on loss and grief – born from personal experience. I am a different physician and person for having read his work.
--John Harper, MD, Founder and Director of the international annual symposium in Dallas, Texas, Intersections: Literature and Medicine.
About the Author
Dr. Hergott is Emeritus Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) and Senior Scholar in Writing at the Center for Bioethics and Humanities in the University of Colorado School of Medicine. He has two writing awards in his name in the U.S., and an international poetry award.
Learn more at www.LawrenceHergottMD.net