Welcome to the Winter/Spring 2023 issue of Medicine and Meaning. Many things have changed since our last issue in October 2022. Some editors have left, others have joined. Metu Osele has left as fiction editor, and Dr. Ventres has left as Conversations editor. Our new editors include Drs. Khan and Khan, related to each other only by friendship, collegiality, and love of stories. Our new Conversations editors are Catherine Corless, Esq., Dr. Hera Wu, and medical students Claire Gist Bradbury and Brittany Tian. Staying on are Diane Jarrett for images, Allen Sherman for 55-word stories, Eric Moorehead for creative nonfiction, and Chris Fettes for poetry. Logan Whittington will join Chris Fettes as associate editor for the poetry column and Chris Lesher will continue to coordinate the content for our website. I am staying on as your Editor-in-Chief.
We had dozens of submissions for fiction, nonfiction, 55-word stories, and poetry. Of these, we selected the absolute best for your reading pleasure, giving priority to stories most closely allied with health and healing, wellness and illness, love and compassion, and death and dying. We also gave preference to authors who are or have been employed by UAMS, but also selected the best of those submitted from non-employee friends of UAMS.
The Conversations page features a story written by Dr. Hanna Jensen, faculty member at the UAMS Northwest Campus and Course Director for cardiology research. She writes about transitions – from life in Finland to life in America, from trainee in surgery to faculty member in research, and from young, single woman to married woman with children. Her story depicts the struggles, rewards, and compromises at every stage in these transitions.
The fiction section highlights stories of life from beginning to end and everything in between. “Life, or Something Like It” features a woman dealing with her husband’s illness and his progressive decline. In “The Other Woman,” an ailing man and his loving wife find their intimacy interrupted by “the other woman.” In “Kidneys and Christmas Trees,” a medical student reflects on seeing metastatic disease light up like a Christmas tree on PET scan. “Hospice” depicts the end of life as a wife prepares for life beyond hospice. Finally, this section concludes with “Labels,” in which a young woman, raised with an abusive family member, reflects back on the trauma and wonders whether labeling some behavior as pathologic would have helped the family cope.
The nonfiction section starts with “Empathy and Real People,” a letter from a senior medical student to junior medical students on how to cope with the weight of empathizing too much with sick patients. Her advice can be useful to all readers, not just junior medical students. “Resist in the Name of God” tells the story of a woman resisting the impending death of her son by brain cancer. Next, “Tangled” is a story of an elderly man with tangled proteins in his brain (Alzheimer’s disease) side by side with metaphors of tangled yarn and tangled memories. Finally, “COVID: Remembering the Early Days,” encapsulates the experiences that many have endured during the last few years.
The 55-word story section includes epiphanies from healthcare practitioners at every stage from medical students to Provost of UAMS. “OSCE” relates the story of a student’s first clinical exam. “Just Fine” is our provost’s reflection of a struggling woman’s self-evaluation. “Dependable Like the Tides” depicts the flow of staff in and out of a patient room. “Remembering a Stranger” is the experience of a young medical student seeing “strangers” in and out of his clinic. Finally, “Appalachian Apathy” is a story of an old, weathered man resigned to his disease and its likely outcome.
The images section opens with a photograph of a snow monkey taken from the Nagano Snow Mountain Park in Japan. The author writes: “It was a long uphill hike in super gross weather to get there, but totally worth it.” Other images include dancers, a vase with flowers, a green and blue ball, a sculptured angel, and a snowy morning scene.
The poetry section includes a poem on foliage written in in English and Chinese, with phonetics of the Chinese verse. Other poems include reflections and epiphanies on hospitalization, hospice, communication, love, life, and … sycamore orbs.
We also present a new section on the history of medicine, edited by Mr. Timothy G. Nutt, Director of the Historical Research Center at the UAMS Medical Library. The inaugural article is on the life and times of Dr. Edith Irby Jones, the first African American woman to be admitted to a Southern public medical school, right here at UAMS. Read more about her experiences and how she adapted to an all-white medical school, rising above the racism and prejudice against her. This story is written by Dr. Erick Messias, Founding Editor of this journal and currently Professor and Chairman of Psychiatry at Saint Louis University. But wait, there’s a co-author, and the co-author is … ChatGPT.
Is ChatGPT an authentic, reliable, and original author? Is it an author at all? Is it allowed into the hallowed walls of academia? Is using its text akin to plagiarism, even if it has never been previously published? These and other questions are the focus of raging debates in academia. We want to hear your opinion about this. Send us your opinion and we will publish it in a new Letters to the Editor section. We will also consider your input when we meet to address our own editorial policy vis-à-vis ChatGPT and other AI-generated material.
We hope you enjoy this issue. We also hope you will send us stories and other creative work to showcase to your colleagues, friends, students and others. Let us know if you are interested in reading, reviewing and or editing. We want you on our team.