What are your rights when you participate in a medical research study?

That question flickered through our minds last year while scrutinizing news about the trials for the COVID-19 vaccine, when Pfizer announced on November 19th: “Primary efficacy analysis demonstrates BNT162b2 to be 95% effective against COVID-19 beginning 28 days after the first dose.” Over 43,000 participants enrolled in the company’s Phase III testing, and questions about the swiftness of the trials surfaced, then abated but remain, overshadowed this week by the milestone the United States has reached: half a million people dead from COVID-19.

But informed consent and the…

I hate looking at paintings through a screen, jammed into one small window, behind a second one in which I am typing. The imperfect scrolling, the unbridgeable distance from here to there, the texture of brushstrokes smoothed to a perfectly placid 72 dpi. Like so many connections during COVID, it can feel insurmountable, ludicrous, as we struggle to reach each other over unstable Wi-Fi connections, to let our hearts shine out of the small space above our masks.

But here I am, looking at paintings on the internet when a title catches my eye: Just Laundry by Brina Bui appeared…

© What Lies Beneath by Sapana Adhikari. Spring 2020 Intima A Journal of Narrative Medicine

If I were to show Sapana Adhikari’s painting “What Lies Beneath” to my four-year old niece, she might point at the women’s bulging blue ovary on the left and say, grapes! She might point at the breast of the woman on the right and say, octopus! She might look at the woman in the center, with the pink ribbons of muscle exposed, and exclaim, in that high-pitched glee of hers: strawberry ice cream! My niece can name things now, and isn’t naming everything to a four-year-old?

Adhikari notes that we live in a constant state of anguish and anxiety over…

Lately, I’ve drawn as a way to reflect on myself and other healthcare providers.

One late evening, just two months into my intern year in pediatrics and seven months into a forever changed New York City, I sat down and drew. I drew from a place of anxiety, working the equivalent of two full-time jobs in a hospital during a time when the people I care for, my loved ones and my patients, were under great strain. I drew from a place of admiration of fellow residents pushing tirelessly to care for sick children. …

Violet Kieu is a fertility doctor and writer from Melbourne, Australia, who writes memoir about medicine and motherhood.
Violet Kieu is a fertility doctor and writer from Melbourne, Australia, who writes memoir about medicine and motherhood.

Global citizenship is humanity that transcends borders.

Going to Vietnam was a formative time of my life-and also a reminder I am not entirely of that place. I am distance, and culture and language apart. Doing a medical elective in Saigon was a paradox-both familiar and foreign.

It is an ongoing cognitive dissonance that I was born in Australia, and yet have family history elsewhere. This duality allows novel ways to contribute: actions and words to hold that tension, that liminal space many people must feel-I am here, but there are people there that matter, and that I matter to.

© Grip by Laura-Anne White Fall 2020 Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine


by Joan Michaelson

Days after George Floyd was kneed to death
and demos spread at speed like a contagion,

in Bristol, England, a statue of a slave trader
was wrested from its plinth and rolled into the river.

A black woman leaped up to take the slave trader’s place.
She was a commanding presence in black power dress

and stance: short skirt, short jacket, cocked black beret,
her right arm raised and fisted, hair worn Afro.

The image went viral. In no time she was immortalized
by the artist Marc Quinn with a resin likeness

that, unlicensed, his team…

In emergency settings, how do clinicians show empathy for patients and their families, yet maintain a healthy emotional distance? In Yara Abou-Hamde’s poem “How the Emergency Shift Will Go” (Fall 2020 Intima), a physician views a patient’s ultrasound report, which contains a tragic, “unexpected result.”

Forgetting, for a moment, about the COVID-19 pandemic, the physician touches the patient’s shoulder with an ungloved hand and reveals that her pregnancy is ectopic. The physician is deeply affected by the patient’s grief: “Your mask will make me acutely aware of your eyes, the sadness magnified so many folds, it will swallow me whole.”

Brenna Fitzgerald is a writer, editor, collage artist and creativity coach. She holds an M.F.A. in creative nonfiction and an M.A. in film and media studies. Fitzgerald has published written work in a variety of literary magazines including Creative Nonfiction, Stone Canoe and Ars Medica. She teaches meditation and finds inspiration in nature. Find her on Instagram @brenbrain. Her artwork “I Am Moments” appears in the Fall 2020 Intima

Wesley Usher’s drawing “Healing” (Spring 2020 Intima) is a meditation on the power of pain and suffering to transform if we open to the vulnerability of the moment. Lilies grow from a spine broken by the “burdens we carry”-our own and those of others.

Two weeks into lockdown, I fractured my foot. In a fight with my partner, I lost control and slammed it into the floor over and over and over. The pain cut into my leg, my hips, my gut. …

A state of flux. The COVID-19 pandemic has induced a state of “How will I react to _____?” Listlessness and emotional exhaustion bring about feelings of isolation and longing to be somewhere we are not. Yet, in learning to modify behaviors, collaborations have emerged.

In the opening couplet to Sheila Kelly’s poem entitled “ Breathe” (Fall 2017 Intima). she sets the stage and introduces a poignant metaphor, depicting calmness, yet incertitude.

You are floating in the swimming pool again.
Your childhood best friend rises like prayer.

“Breathe” was penned well before the current pandemic, yet the feelings of serenity and…

Since when do things have to be true to be useful?

Take God, for instance. Maybe there is no such thing. But I still see the merit in believing in the decrees of some cosmic force, bestowed upon our bearded ancestors, wearing sandals on a mountaintop. Let’s face it: It’s useful to honor our parents. Sometimes they know something, and we rely upon them more than we admit. Better not to bite the hand. And it’s practical not to kill, even if some Almighty isn’t keeping tabs. Try to survive a line at the DMV without suppressing a murderous impulse…

Intima Journal

Intima is a literary journal dedicated to the practice of narrative medicine, an inter-disciplinary field forging bonds with caregivers and patients.

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