2015-16 Pritzker Poetry Contest Winners

Each year, the Pritzker Poetry Contest aims to recognize and celebrate the humanistic side of medicine and to foster compassionate patient care throughout our community. Under the generous sponsorship of Rama Jager, MD, a former ophthalmology resident here at the University of Chicago Medicine, the Pritzker Poetry Contest offers four monetary prizes ranging from $250 to $1,000 awarded to the first and second place winners in each of the two categories: the Open Form Category and the Six Word Category.

All those involved in patient care at the University of Chicago—from faculty to students to nurses to pharmacists to clinic staff and beyond—are eligible to participate. Maintaining lifelong compassion for patients is fundamentally important to the practice of medicine. For millennia, poetry has inspired and fostered significant emotions for both the reader and writer. Thus, channeling the power of poetry through introspection can enhance relationships, improve care, and better quality of life, for patients and personnel alike.

A very special thanks to Dr. Jager and University Retina, who sponsor the contest and provide the financial support for the awards, as well as Associate Dean of Students Jim Woodruff, MD, who spearheaded the contest. Many thanks are due as well to Mark Siegler, MD'67, who has graciously invited the poetry contest winners to read their poems and receive their awards at the 2016 Spring Symposium of the Bucksbaum Institute of Clinical Excellence.


Open Form Category, First Place

to be a great owner of a butterfly
Lea Hoefer, MS2

it was something I came across - a child's words
thanking her teacher for teaching her multiplication, division, map skills
and how to be a great owner of a butterfly
surprising because
although great butterfly owners must learn to be patient and gentle
and deeply kind to fragile creatures
unlike multiplication and division and map skills
no one measures these skills
and rarely do we notice so clearly when someone is teaching us these things
I think it may be the same in medicine
it is easy to measure whether or not we can calculate oncotic pressure
we remember who taught us how to diagnose anemia
yet it is just as important to learn how to be patient and gentle
and deeply kind
and sometimes simultaneously strong and certain and confidence inspiring?
we start out fumbling
and along the way
(careful: they are not always called "teacher")
someone taught you how to be a great holder of hands
but also that there were times that someone might just
need space
there was a person who told you to slow your heart and calm your mind
as the hairs on your skin rose
in anticipation of the unfolding crisis
you were not born knowing
how to stay standing, all at once soft and strong and quiet
on the worst day of someone else's life
do you remember who showed you these things?
who was it?
that taught you how to be a great owner of a butterfly?

Six-Word Poem Category, First Place

Bryan Smith, MD'10

I would still choose her again

(husband after his young wife died in the ICU)

Open Form Category, Second Place

Willard Sharp, MD, PhD

Life has kicked me around
And taught me a thing or two
For sixty years I worked my bones, slowly growing old
Now all I have on me are words to say
Who would have foretold?
Thoughts no one much seems to want to hear
My presence, few could care.
So pleased to see you now
Sit down and stay a while
So pleased to see you now
Stay and share your smile
Your compassion and gentle touch
A light of hope in the darkness
My body worn and battered
Is long beyond your technology ‘s ability to save
And yet your care is healing
Giving hope beyond measure
You restore humanity, once though forever lost
Giving my soul new hope for the future

Six-Word Poem Category, First Place

Zaina Zayyad, MS1

"We will watch and wait, together."

(a shared decision, made)

Thank you to everyone who participated in the 2015-16 Pritzker Poetry Contest.