John Graham-Pole

Title of UFCSH talk: “What’s known, what’s real, what’s good: Reflections on 40 Years of Science and Art in Medicine”
Monday, March 5, 2007
Poetry has been a way for me to humanize my relationships with those I serve. As a children’s hospice director, the narrative arts have helped me bear witness to short lives well lived, through requiems that express feelings of grief, failure, or even celebration.

Stanley Kunitz calls poetry our mythology —”the telling of the soul’s passage through the valley of life.” Communication shares root with community and communion, bestowing on it spiritual as much as emotional overtones. Theologian Matthew Fox in his book “Creativity” sees communion with the source of our being as the simple expression of creativity — something key to our health.

Reflecting on forty years as a doctor, drawing primarily on stories and poems of clinical encounters to pose some questions about the science and art of post-modern medicine. Contrasting the objective model (“science”) of medicine with the experiential, narrative model (“art”), and seeking a middle ground of interdependence between the two.