Poetry submissions start November 1st!
Pritzker Poetry Contest Categories
Rules & Guidelines
Timeline & Judging

Thank you 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 millenia, 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 2016-2017 contest is now closed and we are pleased to announce our finalists and winners this year!





Mending Hearts



Lisa Moore

Category: Resident

The adenoma that grew,

stable for decades,

after his wife died.

Tears now fill his tunnel-vision eyes.


The heart attack from shoveling snow

the day his son left home.


The broken dreams and lost jobs

that made her body ache

as if the bones were breaking

from the inside-out.


These stories of sorrow

soothe my weary mind

during sleepless nights

surrounded by the blaring lights

of fluorescent bulbs,

computer screens and heart monitors.


Because if love can break a heart

perhaps it can mend one too.










Title: A love note 
Author: Lindsay Chun 
Category: Medical Student


Even though I shouldn’t, I:

Despair that I know nothing

Wonder, with delicious self-pity, why learning hurts me

and why I am not afforded the glamour of knowing everything.

But then, I sometimes:

Catch the glimmer of ruby red with faded shine

melted on your almond-pointy fingernails

when your eyes pain you again

Gaze at the copper highlights blended in the tresses

pulled over the brittle baby curls from your own raw scalp.

And then, you:

Teach me that dignity is vulnerable, but unrelenting

and so your beauty refuses to acquiesce.

I decide the following:

That the pain that arrives before my calloused heels is only temporary

That reading instead of rest is a nightly battle I just have to fight

That shielding your flame is labor borne from love (which I will never tell you, except when I briefly hold your hand, tuck your hair under the surgical cap, cover your shoulder before scrubbing in)

That my own sacrifices are small and un-glamorous, but all that I can give

And they are worth it for you.



SIX WORD First Place Winner:

Title: (untitled)
Author: Robert Nolan
Category: Medical Student

 But who was holding whose hand?

-On reflection of a visit with a terminally ill child in Haiti 

SIX WORD Second Place Winner:

Title: Farewell
Author: Scott Eggener
Category: Faculty

      Drifting, dying,       smiling
      Life well lived



Six Word Finalists:


Title: Endless comfort and strength
Author: Heewon Kwak
Category: Fellow

With Him, you can withstand anything.


Title: On Diagnosing
Author: Ayesha Dholakia
Category: Medical Student

 Untreatable? Treat with kindness, with honesty…

(A resident responding to a student’s diagnosis of a patient as untreatable)

Title: Untitled
Author: Sarah Kennedy
Category: Medical Student

"The way you've listened is enough."


a homeless patient replies to a medical student's apology for being unable to do more


Title: Perceptions
Author: Mary Popoca
Category: Staff


Mankind in all forms is beautiful.

Title: (untitled)
Author: Nerissa Sanchez
Category: Nurse

A glance of confusion ...or desolation....

(an elderly patient who lost her husband)


Title: (untitled)
Author: Xanthia Tucker
Category: Medical Student

Well I’ve stopped buying green bananas.

(an eighty-six-year-old widow to his nurse)


Title: Track Marks 
Author: Adam Mikolajczyk
Category: Fellow

The parent in me silently weeps. 

 (A physician with children caring for a young patient with a heroin addiction)


Title: (untitled)
Author: Joseph Lee
Category: Resident

 Doctor. What would you do?

 (In regards to end of life care, the most difficult question is the one you aren't trained to answer.)



Open Form Finalists:

Title: Foresight 
Author: Doriane Miller
Category: Faculty

Old lady in the wheelchair grabs the baby with tremulous, gnarled hands

Her body failing, eyes milky

The sweet scent of her perfume mixed with scents of urine and decay

Baby wriggles, then feels the softness of her lap, a feeling of the familiar

She nestles in to her bosom and falls asleep


I push the old lady and the baby through the throngs of patients at the clinic

Young and old, all are searching for healing

Fellow patients look onto the old lady and baby with tender and poignant smiles


We meet the doctor, the news is not good

The old lady’s vision is failing and cannot be saved

Old lady draws the sleeping baby closer to her chest

That’s OK, doc, I know you can’t heal me

I don’t need my eyes, because I can see the future





On Balance

Ayesha Dholakia
Category:Medical Student     


A beautiful irony to witness such a surgery,

Doctors entranced with the inner mind, with the brain’s control,

Now aiding its exposure to the external world.

Hours pass to prevent a passing,

The utmost nerve from a team that threads laughter through silence,

Restoring the equilibrium within this 6-year-old child.


A symphony in utter synchrony,

Playing our respective parts, acting with the utmost respect,

For the human body before us and all the secrets it has kept.


Arteries and veins in a net


to push blood past one another in a perfectly net zero rhythm,

As he anxiously awaits his only child, nervous in the system.


Nervous in part because they do not know cause,

And he does not know cost, or language, or treatment,

Afraid of navigating a system that so harshly has treated him.


Yet this room embodies equality, we all simple human bodies,

Tears that stem from joy as our stories collide,

Forever intersect.  My story, ours, theirs, in this room, aligned.


Title: Hang in there!
Author: Jane Domingo
Category: Nurse

Hang in there!


"Hang in there!" Are these the words you want to hear?

When the world is falling apart and is too much to bear.

When needle sticks are too many, bumps and bruises everywhere

Is it fair to say, that I truly care?


When pain becomes unbearable, and no relief in sight

A touch of a hand or a sweet smile, will you take that?

A restless mind from sleepless nights,

On a bed you don’t call your own

Will you believe me if I say  that I have always known?


So tell me when you hear these words

"Hang in there!"  I always say on my part,

Or do you just want me stay beside you

And feel my warm heart?



Title: Mr. Bishop
Author: Dustin Harris
Category: Resident

Everyone had gone

The hallways empty

The receptionist, the janitor and the other doctors soon to be home


Next patient,

You call without a reply

Next patient!

You reminisce the, now past, beautiful day while giving your watch an eye

The last patient, Mr. Bishop, makes his way down the hall

His name wasn't really Mr. Bishop, no not at all

Not even close

But of all the chess pieces, he resembled a Bishop

The most

He wasn't smooth at the top with a wide base

He walked with

       A lean,

         A tilt,

           A diagonal pace

Some say he grew up on a ship, walking amongst the waves

But you knew, it was his mind that wavered

Sunday walks with his wife, he'd let go of her hand without a second glance

From the sidewalk to the street into traffic was his dance

He sat down in his usual chair and gave his usual stare

"What a beautiful day!"

He always opened with the weather, whether or not it was actually a beautiful day

5:30 was his time

Each day of the week because

He could not remember which day it was

His wife wasn't around to remind him

And he had no children to speak of

But you are there, to talk about the weather or any of the above

Memories left Mr. Bishop each day

But you chose to stay


Everyone has gone

Leaving you

And Mr. Bishop

To discuss whatever you may



           beautiful day.


Title: Beyond the Bell
Author: James Woodruff
Category: Faculty

What hope is there

in this visit?

Some corrective

word or countermeasure

put up into

an abstruse alembic?

Or instead, the

stroke of some sharpened

implement? I



And you, who

pause in wordless

thought, engrossed

with orphic deliberation,

do you fathom

a heart beyond

the bell?

Or prefer, instead,

to recuse all tenderness,

for me?




Title:Some Sense of Healing    

Author: Sheila Nesbit
Category: Staff


  oversized hospital gown,

                                    swollen arms guided through.

Mixed antiseptic smells,

cling to,

 physician’s lathered hands.

Observe ---- eyes






Cuff feels tight, through labored breaths.

as cart leads to learned rooms.

Giving hope a constant ground,

The Right Place is Here







Afraid I won't wake up

Hassan Aboumerhi
Category: Resident


The oscillating sounds of wheels rolling over plastic floors were interrupted-

I could hear gasps, shudders, sniffles, and sighs,

Those were the sounds of anticipation, of fear.

She was crying. "I'm afraid I won't wake up..." she said.

I tried to smile, but remembered my mask hid it.

"Everything is going to be OK. We're going to take great care of you!"

She nodded.

But tears revealed the poor potency of words,

Words didn't cure the fear of a vague sleep under a cold knife,

The fear of losing control, of losing consciousness,

The fear of being trapped in a realm of savage nightmares,

Or worse- of being awake on a narrow bed of white light and red blood.

What alleviates such fear when words can't help?


The operating room doors opened like monstrous gates to an evil unknown,

Sniffles grew to sobs, shudders grew to moans.

I showed her a syringe with an orange label.

"This will make you feel better."

More words.

Tears showered her gown.

But after the orange-labeled medicine,

After a plastic oxygen mask-  "Deep breaths. Deep breaths."

After medicines labeled blue and yellow flowed like magical potions,

There were no more tears. No more shudders.

Just calm, peace,



The oscillating sounds of wheels rolling over plastic floors were interrupted-

I could hear light snores.  Slow breaths. The exhales of comfort.

"Surgery's all done! How're you doing?  Do you have any pain?"

Her eyes remained closed,

But she smiled.






Title: Light
Author: Zayir Malik
Category: Resident


His mom took the light with her

when she left to work the night shift.

She had fed him half of the Ensure—

that chalky gray formula—

reassuring him

in her unsure voice

dripping with pained hope that

made sludge into ambrosia.


Her hands controlled the air in that room

trembling, tense,


in withdrawal from security.

But with every drink he took

she was quenched.

Hands steadier with each gulp,

muscles and air and light more languid.

Words again fell weightlessly—

no longer with a thud—

and bounced off walls

landing playfully on him.

Starched white sheets relaxed

from pall to quilt,

air from suffocating

to invigorating,

for a moment.


As the scent of her perfume fades,

so does the beauty.


Now he lays alone

in a loveless room,

eyes blankly glued to

the stale light of the tv,

the only source of color in this

palace of bleached sterility.

Cartoons can’t make him forget

the grit and blood and bullets.

They can’t coax the air like her

or expel darkness with radiance.

Poem Categories
Poem Categories

There are two poem categories for the 2015-2016 Pritzker Poetry Contest: (1) the Open Form category, and (2) the Six Word category.

Open Form   Six Word
For the Open Form category, submit a poem in any form (sonnet, haiku, prose, etc.), which inspires compassionate care of patients. Please avoid including any specific patient identifying information in the poem and limit the poem to 250 words or less.   For the Six Word category, submit a poem in exactly six words that exemplifies compassion in medicine. The poem may contain a byline that provides additional context, but the poem itself must have only six words. Please avoid including any specific patient identifying information in the poem. An example with a byline is provided below
Neuro ICU
The intensity with which I feel
Reminds me this is something real,
That life's a fickle, fragile thing,
A fluid, finite offering,
Capable of higher thought—
Analysis of theme and plot,
Discourse on the daily news,
Creating art, defending views--
And yet how swift its ebb and flow,
How instantly it seems to go.
And leave whole families behind,
Trying desperately to find
The fragments of their memory,
That shape the life which used to be.
Patience when asking one... or two... (an ophthalmology resident refracting an Alzheimer's patient)
Rules and Guidelines
Rules and Guidelines

Please read the following requirements for submission in their entirety.  All poems must strictly adhere to these guidelines to be considered in the 2015-2016 Pritzker Poetry Contest. Please note that if a poem is deemed inappropriate by reviewers, the contest moderators reserve the right to remove it or refrain from posting it.

  • Submissions will only be accepted online on this site
  • Submissions must be original
  • Submissions must be written in English
  • Submissions must not be under consideration for publication*
  • Submissions must not have been previously published*
  • Submissions must not have any patient-identifying information or protected health information, in accordance with HIPAA regulations
  • Entrants must have a valid CNET ID
  • Entrants are limited to one entry per category
  • Entrants must allow their work to be published on this website and/or in a University of Chicago publication (e.g., Medicine on the Midway, the Pritzker Pulse, etc.)*
* Note: Participants will be allowed to submit their work for publication in a scholarly journal after the contest is over.
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 2016-2017 Pritzker Poetry Contest is as follows:

  • March 10: Finalists announced on this site. Winners selection begins.
  • March 15: Winners are notified.
  • Spring 2017: 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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