Brought to you by the students of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
If spring is a season for lovers, then autumn must be a season for misanthropes. Who else would take delight in this season of death and decay? In autumn, nature is worn out and washed up. We see the shadow of what once was, the shell of summertime beauty. And yet, autumn does have a certain beauty in its own right: the radical, vibrant colors of the trees, the slanting, dramatic shadows cast by the sinking sun, the crystalline frost that gilds the morning leaves all seem to sing out in beautiful melodies, even in the midst of autumn’s death and decay.
This paradoxical season reminds us of the one unalterable fact of medicine: every patient dies. Sobering, morbid perhaps, but at some point in our lives, everyone wrestles with this truth. In medicine, the facts of death are not a singular realization; they are our daily reality. We, as physicians, are placed in a unique position of having the power to postpone this unavoidable end. It may seem that we have little more influence than the Dutch boy with his finger in the dike, just buying some time before the inevitable. Not quite: though each of our patients’ stories eventually end the same, the paths that they take on the way there are not nearly as uniform. As doctors, we can take on a unique role in helping to write that unique story. Every human life meets with death and decay, but in life, as in autumn, we are also met with incredible beauty. It is our job to bring out this beauty and to help it shine; whether that means saving someone from cardiac arrest, diagnosing and treating an infection, or simply helping to restore broken relationships. In the midst of death, we can search for some way to heal; in the midst of ugliness, we can find beauty.
In our sixth issue of Mentis we explore this theme from a number of perspectives. Tom Boone gives us a window into the experience of death in Africa and the soul-searching questions that come from seeing children die from illnesses that would be easily treated in America. Four second year medical students pay tribute to our body donors, who, in death, have given an incredible gift to help train the next generation of physicians. Kiefer Hock’s poem “Of Mice (My Life is not My Own)” explores what it means to be human and what makes us who we are. As doctors try to help each patient achieve that potential, that beauty in the midst of ugliness, there are often many roadblocks. Disease complications and social factors may seem to be the biggest barriers to effective healing, but one often overlooked difficulty is the patient himself. Candace Carpenter explores how doctors deal with difficult patients and how we can work to bring healing to those who seem the least inclined to accept it. But despite the ugly side of medicine, we remember that autumn is not an end, but a beginning. There is a spring after autumn that all of us yearn for. A primeval hope that somehow things will be made right. Thomas Negassi gives words to this longing in his poem “Wait”.
In this issue of Mentis, we invite you on a journey. We would like you to walk with us and see autumn through the eyes of our authors. Hopefully, as we explore some of the darker themes in medicine, you too will see the vein of beauty and goodness that runs through even the most melancholy reflections.
Benjamin Cox and Erin Armao
Co-Editors in Chief of Mentis
"View of Highgate from Hampstead Heath"
John Constable, c.1834
Oil on cardboard. 24 x 29.5cm
Puskin Museum of Fine Art, Russia.
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