An article in the New York Times Read article here today discusses a group of faculty and students at Georgetown Medical School who are meeting in the evenings to discuss literature, in an effort to maintain the connection with humanity that medical education can unwittingly sever. That may seem counterintuitive, but not to those who have experienced the stress, and pressure, and grinding weariness of trying to learn how to become someone who can navigate the messiness of providing health care. It’s no Disney movie, believe me. The article mentions dissecting anonymous cadavers while music plays in the background; I remember eating my lunch in the dissection room on more than one occasion during medical school. Later, during residency, the overwhelming workload almost always outweighed any inclination to spend time getting to know patients better, or to reflect upon what impact the overall training experience was having on our sense of compassion, of empathy, of altruism—of being human. Kudos to the author, a urologist who helps lead the literature group. The article provides a link to the program’s website, and a review of the syllabus gives me hope that these medical students will have some defense against depersonalization that is the prelude to burnout. That is what art (in this case, literature) offers to those who would become healers.

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