“To A Young Doctor” – A Poem by Dr. Allan Peterkin


To A Young Doctor

Make every diagnosis
a poem

The words you choose
will never matter more
(or be less forgotten)

Arrows and missiles to unseen targets
a reverberation of souls

For you
another organ or limb or brain
for them
the only one

Your words
do not just foretell
the odds of life or death
(or something in between)

They deliver hope
or render it stillborn
they make you a trusted ally
(or something else)

Choose them well
they are already

Make the words beautiful
a vessel to
carry whatever comes next

Allan Peterkin MD

University of Toronto


This poem was originally published in the Sept 2013 issue of the CMAJ (Vol. 185, Issue 13).

Author Bio: Dr. Allan Peterkin is a Professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at the University of Toronto and is a Senior Fellow at Massey College. He is the Director of the Health, Arts & Humanities Program and the newly appointed Humanities Lead for Undergraduate Medical Education. Dr. Peterkin studied English and French literature before starting medical school at the University of Manitoba and completed residencies in family medicine and psychiatry at McGill University. He is the author of twelve books for adults and children, including “Staying Human During Residency Training-How To Survive and Thrive After Medical School” (soon to be in its 6th edition) . He is a founding editor of the literary journal ARS MEDICA and has published poetry, fiction and critical essays on narrative medicine and the use of the humanities in medical education in Canadian, US and international journals.


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