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lynn: Editor's Commentary

 , August 29, 2013

lynn” by Emily Pinto Taylor is the second poem in our series on the role of suffering and illness in medical education. This poem grabs the reader with an emotional exclamation of “Why??” from one of her classmates. This disbelief is the result of non-compliance of a patient, and is an exclamation that every healthcare professional has at some point wanted to scream. However, the poem then grabs the readers common frustration and wraps it around the heart-rending story of an HIV+ patient and his side effects that lead to the loss of many things, including his teeth. With painfully perfect imagery, Pinto Taylor describes his maneuvers “so you couldn't hear the missing / click / of tongue on teeth.” This patient’s suffering through HIV and its treatment helped the author to look for the more complete story with her future patient, Lynn, who was refusing certain necessary medications. This poem is moving and at times shattering, demonstrating the dangers of defining patients by a single story: drug-seeker, typical sickler, difficult patient, frequent flyer, non-compliant. The patient’s story, rather than bullet-point symptoms and stereotypes, is the foundation of good medicine. 

Bryan Sisk, MD
Deputy Editor, The Living Hand