Distributed Education: Expressing experiences through poetry

To know someone
That there is at
Least one other
Thinking of
Makes a

Inspired by a phone call with a patient, Dr. Kevin Dueck, MD’16, adjunct faculty member, took to pen and paper. The resulting poem, "Someone Cares," was recently published in Leaflet, a medical literary arts e-journal.

Dr. Dueck is a family physician based in Woodstock and practises primary care, emergency and addiction medicine. He spoke to us about the inspiration behind the poem and the role poetry and narrative medicine plays in his medical career.

What inspired you to write this poem?

Early in my residency, I was on a family medicine rotation and I made a connection with a patient and his partner. He for the first time disclosed mental health concerns to a doctor. We had a few appointments and he seemed to be doing better, then missed two appointments and didn't reschedule them. I was concerned and called him to check in, he was grateful for the call and that someone was thinking of him. It reinforced the importance of human connection. Even though I wrote the poem in 2017, it seems relevant in the current time of physical distancing.

I've tried many styles over the years. Some things just feel right as a comic, others as art, or a short narrative. This felt right as a poem. I had read a number of poems by Charles Bukowski in the year prior, so some of his style came through in this poem and others I wrote at that time.

What role does poetry and narrative medicine play in your career?

I've been journaling for many years, the majority of nights I write a page or two. Sometimes an experience, a conversation, an interesting idea or a lesson sticks with me and part of how I process them is to express them through prose, poetry, or occasionally art.

During my time at Western as an undergraduate student, I connected with Dr. Jeff Nisker who encouraged my writing and gave thoughtful feedback. During that time and through residency, I wrote and created often. I felt some lessons should be shared and was fortunate to find avenues for publication. These ranged from issues of medical education, communication with patients, my taking paternity leave in residency, to other topics.

A selection of Dr. Dueck’s publications are available online.