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The Catalyst

Creative literary outlet adds deeper dimension

By Dawn Brazell
Public Relations

Calm of the Wild Horses by David B. Williams, College of Medicine

Art puts the soul back into medicine.

That is what Diann Krywko, M.D., has found, and writing helps her do just that. Take her piece, “They didn’t know,” recognized as an outstanding submission in the prose category in MUSC’s HUMANITAS 2013 (reprinted below). She had treated a heartbreaking case of a young mom and writing the piece helped her process the grief.

As the call for submissions opens for MUSC employees, faculty and staff for the next HUMANITAS publication, Krywko encourages other health professionals to get involved.

Krywko, who has submitted pieces for the past four years, said she’s amazed how emotional she gets when writing because she is not when seeing patients. When she’s with them, she has to stay focused; writing frees her up to feel. She’s been an emergency medicine physician for almost 14 years, all of those spent in an academic, level 1, inner-city trauma center.

“During this time, I have been involved in countless heartbreaking, as well as soul-lifting, patient encounters. Like most emergency medicine providers, I, consciously or unconsciously, forget what I have experienced when I leave through the doors in order to survive. Occasionally, the effect of the encounter is lasting. Writing about those repairs part of the soul that’s touched so strongly.”

Krywko is division director of faculty development and mentoring. She encourages residents she’s training to write down their experiences. “We probably have a story every day. I tell residents they should always write something down because what they see every day is so incredible that you kind of forget that you do see that magnitude of emotion and suffering.”

Practicing some type of art is critical in balancing the demands of the profession, she said.

“We’re so science black and white — left brained. It’s completely the opposite of what we do. It’s the opposite of walking in and taking care of somebody and no matter how horrible it is, you walk in and take care of the next person. Writing gives you time to process the emotion.”
Alex Clarke, HUMANITAS 2014 editor, became involved with the publication during his second year of medical school for 2012-2013. His primary artistic outlet in the past has been music, though he sees himself branching out into woodwork and metalwork in the future.  This year HUMANITAS is adding a music category, which he’s excited about. See the box below for submission requirements.

“Now I’m spending more time in the domain of drawing, design and tinkering.  Following years of songwriting and musical performance, I’ve started to become interested in making pieces that exist in physical space.”

Having an artistic outlet is important for all people, Clarke said. “I do believe that it holds special importance for people in careers that are heavily geared toward logic and algorithmic thinking.  Any amount of time you spend in the creative process grows your personal insight and capacity immensely.  In the rush of life and pursuit of perfection of your trade - whatever it may be - it’s easy to forget to carve out time for personal reflection, exploration and invention.”

Engaging in creative pursuits has the power to make medical professionals better at their jobs, he said. “This practice of forcing yourself to step outside of the conventional thought path, to analyze your thoughts to intentionally create something brand new has endless applications in the sciences and is deeply important to medicine and the human experience.”

HUMANITAS is a snapshot into that journey. “HUMANITAS is a way to remind people how important this aspect of life is  — to highlight the talented individuals that walk amongst us daily, celebrate their ideas in the public domain and encourage others to join the discussion.”

Want to submit?
It’s time to find your artistic side. MUSC  employees, faculty and staff may submit work for the 18th edition of MUSC’s HUMANITAS.

Every year, HUMANITAS publishes a journal of prose, poetry and visual arts from the ranks of MUSC. There is a $100 prize for the top submission in each of the categories: prose, poetry, visual art and the new category of music.

Alex Clarke, HUMANITAS 2014 editor, said he’s excited to announce the addition of auditory submissions. “We all know that there are are countless talented authors, poets, artists, and photographers at MUSC, but we also know that there are many incredible musicians in our ranks, and we think it’s important to shine a light on all of our talented creators. If you’ve got an original song, composition, or vocal track that you’re proud of, we want to hear it.”

Deadline for submissions is Jan. 24. . Submissions should include the title of the work in the description box. For all digital format submissions, the higher the resolution the better. People also may photograph their work. For other questions about submissions and contact information, visit the MUSC News Center at

They didn’t know
They didn’t know.
They didn’t know that they would lose their 33-year-old mother that day.
They didn’t know that they would lose their 33-year-old daughter that day.
They didn’t know the terms sepsis, shock, intubation and hypoxia.
They didn’t know the right place to die wasn’t in the emergency department.
They didn’t know the noise and chaos weren’t taking away from her care.
They didn’t know the politics in getting a bed for a vented withdrawal of care patient.
They didn’t know that I struggled with my emotions and cried outside of the curtain.
They didn’t know.
But I did.

Written by Dr. Diann Krywko and reprinted with permission from HUMANITAS 2013
January 10, 2014

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