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The marvelous connections between poetry and medicine

October 24, 2023

Season 1, Episode 18



Sri Shamasunder likes to say he was a poet before he was a doctor. His college mentor, the legendary poet and activist June Jordan, passed away from cancer during his first year of medical school, but had a lasting impact on his practice of medicine. She encouraged him to harness righteous anger and to use his voice to fight inequity, inspiring Shamasunder’s work as a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and as the co-founder and director of the HEAL Initiative, an equity-based global health fellowship that provides quality care for communities in need around the world. 

In this episode, Sri and Dwayne discuss the surprising similarities between poetry and medicine; how the HEAL Initiative cultivates “noble friendships” across cultural divides; and the impact of the mentorship of June Jordan and Dr. Paul Farmer on Sri’s life and career. Plus: so much poetry! Poems mentioned in this episode include: 

["The Gift" by Li-Young Lee]( " "The Gift" by Li-Young Lee")

["To Walk in Beauty Once Again" by Sri Shamasunder (for Adriann Begay, June 2020)]( ""To Walk in Beauty Once Again" by Sri Shamasunder (for Adriann Begay, June 2020)")

["The Guest House" by Jalaluddin Rumi]( ""The Guest House" by Jalaluddin Rumi")

["In Blackwater Woods" by Mary Oliver]( ""In Blackwater Woods" by Mary Oliver")

["Our Daily Bread" by César Vallejo]( ""Our Daily Bread" by César Vallejo")

["It’s Hard to Keep a Clean Shirt Clean" by June Jordan (poem for Sri Shamasunder)]( ""It’s Hard to Keep a Clean Shirt Clean" by June Jordan (poem for Sri Shamasunder)")

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