University of Iowa medicine school looks to integrate creative writing through new contest

The University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine recently launched a creative-writing contest for faculty to submit short stories and publish poetry.


Gaoyuan Pan

The Carver College of Medicine is pictured on April 4, 2018.

Kelsey Harrell, News Reporter

The University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine is looking to integrate the UI’s history of nurturing skilled writers and its excellence in training medical professionals with a new writing contest.

The medical school hopes to incorporate creative writing into the medical field by hosting its first creative writing contest for faculty, resident physicians, and postdoctoral fellows. Participants can enter short stories or poetry to be published in an anthology.

The reviewers will look for fiction short stories and poetry — not creative nonfiction or personal writing — to give people the opportunity to explore their options, said Cate Dicharry, director of the Writers and Humanities Program in the College of Medicine.

The review team will not look for stories with literary merit, but more for people who enjoy writing, she added.

“It’s about nurturing people’s love of literature and creative writing, so we’re looking for really anything that they write that brings them joy,” Dicharry said.

This will be the first contest of its kind for the faculty in the College of Medicine, she said. Earlier this semester, the college held a poetry contest for students and awarded them scholarships for their submissions, she said.

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The college has found students are interested in continuing their creative lives, Dicharry said, even during medical school. The contest is a way for someone to submit one piece of work they compose in their free time instead of taking a writing class, she said.

The ability to write creatively can help medical professionals to tell the stories of their patients and help them interact, Dicharry said.

Students and faculty write scientific articles to be published, so they have writing skills but are not always geared toward writing creatively, UI Vice President of Medical Affairs Brooks Jackson said.

“I think our role allows us to get insight into human nature that the general public does not get, for example, which allows for creativity for fiction and poetry,” he said. “I think it allows us to do more things than just practice medicine and science.”

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Many medical schools have humanity activities such as writing contests for faculty and students, Jackson said. The stories medical professionals may encounter in their daily work can sometimes spark creativity in ways people outside the profession would not otherwise experience, he said.

Practicing creative writing in the medical field will allow students to experience a different side of learning, freshman creative-writing student Sydney Mayes said.

“I think that this can create more spaces for [writers] in different fields, especially if we integrate fields that are often opposed to each other in terms of the way we view education,” she said.

Creative writing can help communicate ideas and emotions, freshman creative-writing student Rachel Tabor said. Humans have communicated through storytelling for ages and it is something everyone has to do at some point, she added.

“It doesn’t just go for the medical field, but all fields really,” she said. “Creative writing is a way to express yourself and ideas.”