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Pritzker Poetry Contest

We're happy to announce our winners for the 2013-14 Contest below.

Thanks to all for your interest in the Pritzker Poetry Contest, dedicated to inspiring compassion in medicine. 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.


The Pritzker Poetry Contest Committee

Poem Categories


2013-14 Pritzker Poetry Contest Winners:


Open Form Category — First Place

5.      A Name.

by Alexandea Garnett (third year medical student)

I ask her for her full name and the year that she was born,

I ask her where she lives and who resides at home,

I ask about her current health, of aching joints and belly pains,

I ask about her diet and the food that fuels her veins.

I ask of juvenile ailments, though she struggles to recall,

I ask about her parents’ death: At what age? And how?

I ask of sordid details from a youth gone past–

Times long ago forgotten, buried and forgiven, by most but not us.

I ask her of her travels, her employment, and her sleep,

And bit-by-bit she offers up these pieces of her life

Because a body’s secrets are no longer hers to keep,

Now portions of a record, scribed by a stranger’s pen.

I smile politely and turn to leave, our encounter at its end,

But at the door I take pause, as something in me stirs.

I catch her eye and offer up one brief beholden look,

For it seems strange that in exchange for everything I took,

The only thing I’ve shared with her, is a name she’d not quite heard.


Open Form Category — Second Place

This is just to say.

by Wei Wei Lee, MD (Assistant Professor of Medicine)

I have felt

the thrill

that flutters in

your chest

and which

you were probably


was just nerves

Forgive me

my voice trembles

unsteady as

I start to speak

[ *This poem is based on the William Carlos Williams poem of the same title, "This is just to say"]

Six Word Poem Category — First Place

Dropped Beats.

by Jasmine Dowell, MD, Pediatric Resident

A broken heart divided, leaves two.

(A pediatric resident observes the mourning parents of an infant with congenital heart defect.)


Six Word Poem Category — Second Place

8.      Solace.

by Marc Robinson, MD, Medicine Resident

Falling snow blankets her heart's ruins.

Snow began to fall as a patient passed in the ICU, providing a beautiful moment for the patient's devastated wife.



2013-14 Pritzker Poetry Contest Finalists:
Rules and Guidelines

Open Form:

1.      The Earth Stood Still.

The earth stood still in the middle of the day,

I tried to run faster just to get away.

The tears fell from my eyes like rain from the clouds,

The sound of that word was just so loud.

Then one day you came in and gave me your name,

Doctor who did you say?

Oh, that's right, the same as yesterday.

The trial of the medicine you gave me was no joke,

But your words of encouragement filled me with hope.

 And then one day we came to the end,

Together, my Doctor, my friend.

The earth stood still in the middle of the day.

So long ago and so far away.



2.      Changes in me.

Sleepless night in ICU,

Restless and anxious patients

that do not know what to do,

Afraid that they may not see the light of day,

Amidst their pain that they constantly convey,

My heart was transformed from a heart of stone

to a heart of flesh,

When I see their tears rolling on their cheek,

Searching for answers they persistently seek,

Just by being there, comforting

reassuring that I'm on their side,

Eases the pain they feel inside,

Saying a prayer calms their fearful heart,

Knowing that our Creator had set this path,

My job turns into joy...

it is not tedious, it is not laborious,

It is serving those who needed it most.



3.      Matriculation.

Watching the matriculation ceremony,

Medical students with wide grins striding across the stage,

Reveling in crisp, pristine white coats.

I find myself asking…

When did I lose the awe?

From the recesses emerge the memories of the “me” that was.

The solemnity and gratitude of encountering my first cadaver.

The trepidation of my first surgical incision.

The dubious honor of pronouncing death.

Lingering, the finality washing over me time and again.

When did I lose the awe?

When did WE lose the awe?

Daily engaged in a battle to remain humane.

Overrun with time constraints and demands

But desiring

To feel with the same intensity,

To genuinely sympathize, empathize

To not relegate deaths to the realm of matter-of-fact.

I eke out small victories.

And I whisper a prayer of hope,

For those smiling students in the pristine white coats.


4.      You Are My Strength.

Iv thru my vein,

a beat in my heart,

air flows thru my lungs my life has not stopped.

For you I shall fight,

for you give it my all,

for you I'll fight till the last beat in my heart.

I'll fight this tough battle with you by my side,

you give me the strength you keep me alive.

From this bed I shall rise and stand on my feet as we walk out the door the rest of our lives awaits.


7.      They coded him.

Wide awake and talking.


A little blood on his high school t-shirt.


Something's wrong. 

Not to worry.

Wipe it away quickly.

Hold his arm.


Fast forward.


Hands on chest.


Holding each other.

Eyes half open.




Old blood stain.

New blood.

Fresh blood.

Their child.


Get the tube in.

Their son.

Color change.

Some relief.


8.      Accident.

Push contrast – intravenous –

and the hot bark gluts

the clotted veins branched

off the street.

I don’t know how film works.

How the release of

subatomic particles

leaves a stain.

I can only assume

the crash-tests weren’t


That photons bleed black.

I do know the break

in the branch

of the angiogram

is killing him.

Which brings me back

from the clinical detachment

of rib from ribs

to the face of the stranger who

is my father, and son,

and neighbor, and still

a stranger –

your stranger.

I tell you to breathe just right.


in common time – understand

it’s not the time to breathe waltzes.

But neither is it time

to lose the beat and


I promise we’re doing all we can.



Six Words:

1.      Untitled.

Tell me what happened to you.


2.      One Last Moment.

One Tear

One Smile

One Breath

(MICU Attending saying goodbye to her dying mentor, a fellow physician, as she removed him from the ventilator at his family's request.)


3.      The First Stage of Grief.

That isn't him. That isn't him.

Byline: The mother of a deceased sixteen-year-old gunshot wound victim at Jackson Park Hospital.


4.      Observations in the MICU.

Exchanged glances,

downward gaze...

fully embraced.

 (When the nurses interact with patients, families, or staff.)


5.      End of Life.

Please anticipate. Palliate. Do not resuscitate.


6.      A New Beginning.

A final selfless act, for life.

(An unexpected death, leading to organ donation and the saving of five lives.)


9.      The Greatest Gift We Can Give.


Defying the inevitability of death.


10.  Question.

Am I going to die soon?


11.  Old Age.

I just can't remember, I'm sorry.

Timeline and Judging
Timeline and Judging

Once all entries are received and screened for inappropriate content, poems will enter a first round of judging to select ten finalists in each poem category. All finalist entries will then be posted on this website for the community to read, and enjoy.  The finalist poems will advance to the final round of judging, in which judges from a multidisciplinary panel will select winning submissions. Winners will be notified by the Pritzker Poetry Contest committee, awarded prize monies, and honored in a public forum.

The timeline for the 2013-2014 Pritzker Poetry Contest is as follows:

  • November 7, 2013: Opening day for poem submission.
  • January 15, 2014: Final day for poem submission.
  • January 16, 2014: Finalist selection begins.
  • February 1, 2014: Finalists announced on this site. Winners selection begins.
  • April 1, 2014: Winners are notified.
  • Spring 2014: Winners are honored at a public forum and awarded prize monies.

The following prizes will be awarded to winning entries in each of the poem categories:

  • Open Poem, First Place: $1,000.00
  • Open Poem, Second Place: $500.00
  • Six-Word Poem, First Place: $500.00
  • Six-Word Poem, Second Place: $250.00
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