In this issue of Medicine and Meaning we feature the winning selections from the Mehta Creative Writing Contest. This award was created in 2020 and honors the best writing in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. This year (2022-2023), we received more than 50 submissions, each of which was reviewed by a committee of literary and medical specialists. The panel then selected the ones they considered the best in terms of theme, message, and beauty. They then awarded first place for poetry, fiction, and nonfiction respectively. This issue includes the selections which won first place or honorable mention. Authors of these selections read all or part of their work at the award ceremony and reception in person at UAMS on April 13, 2023.
Also included in this issue are the keynote speeches from that award ceremony and reception. These speeches were by Dr. Micah Hester about the humanities in medical training and the impact of this award, Dr. Stephanie Gardner on the value of reading in the practice of medicine, and Dr. Paulette Mehta on why doctors and others write.
First place for poetry was awarded to Haylee Shull for a story-poem about an orchard which holds the history of the family and community including the grandfather’s ashes and all the cycles of life since and before his passing. In prize-winning short story, “Hardly Working (Remotely)”, Reade Zodrow wrote about a new way of working (remotely) with its concomitant anxieties and challenges, as well as other aspects of modern digitalized life. Finally, in nonfiction, first prize was given to Brook Scalzo for her portrayal of her newborn baby’s surgery and how quickly she learned to see the beauty and uniqueness of her baby’s scar as the baby began to heal.
The panel also awarded honorable mentions to authors of two poems, two stories, and two essays. The first honorable mention poem portrays a community pediatrician reflecting on his patients. The second honorable mention poem is on the passing of seasons using rhyming couplets and ending with the beautiful lines “All but some reach Winter’s untimely end./It is up to you to begin again.” One of the fiction pieces relates to fitting in as an immigrant in the United States. Another honorable mention fiction story is “Affidavid,” in which a young woman grieves the death of her boyfriend David but finds another David to replace the one she lost. This story examines the varied manifestations and impact of grief. We hope to publish it in a future issue.
Then there are two nonfiction pieces, one recounting a day in the life of a medical student at the Harmony Clinic and the other a short essay by Laura Rohm on why, as she writes, “There is no place better than a place with peanuts, brisk February air, and an old paw paw.”
We are fortunate at UAMS to have such talented students, faculty, and staff who wrote such beautiful poetry and prose, and I hope you enjoy them. I also hope you will submit your poems and stories for the fourth annual Mehta Creative Writing Awards to be announced later this year. As always, we also welcome your submissions for regular issues of Medicine and Meaning.
In the meantime, keep reading, keep writing, and stay safe.
Paulette Mehta, M.D., MPH