GAUDEAMUS IGITUR, NO. II (“Therefore, Let Us Rejoice”)

From the Winter 2015 edition of Vanderbilt Medicine Magazine

Written by Andre Churchwell, M.D., Homage to John H. Stone, MD—Poet, Friend, Humanist, and Cardiologist— and John’s Poem “Gaudeamus Igitur: A Valedictory Address.” (1982)

 

Let us rejoice in this celebration.
Let us rejoice in this end of a
Beginning and the beginning to a new end.

Let us rejoice that the days of
Healing can now begin.

For in healing our lives are made
More meaningful.

That to heal, we must be constantly
In the moment, human and
Doubly humane.

For in healing, we are connected to
Hippocrates and Pasteur and Osler and Drew.

For we who are gathered here
Must ease suffering
And know and care in equal amounts.

We must know pathos, loss and joy fully;
For they are always near.

That from our connectedness, we
will know
When death has entered the room.

For we understand that no one
Dies of a spider angioma and vigilance
Will be required to recognize
The tracks in the snow, of the Silent MI.

That God’s rhythm, the ECG,
Can have peaked T waves
That must be feared, recognized, and treated.

That we must know diabetes and
Its acidosis and coma and all of its
Deadly ways.

For we must know that hard work and
Disciplined, reassured, self-regulated thoughts and actions are
part of doctoring.

We must know of Kussmaul’s Sign,
The angle of Louis (Armstrong),
And Heberden’s Nodes.

That Vanderbilt, this place of
Manicured green lawns, gathered friends,
And enduring lessons, stands eternal
And, for you, will remain a repository of knowledge,
People and memories.

For you will come to understand the virtue
Of giving a piece of yourself to every
Patient only deepens your healing value and effect.

For you will sometimes not find
McBurney’s Point or Virchow’s Sentinel Node.

That you will find solace in the smile of a
Child and a letter from a patient.

That DNA and science have a magnificence,
And you will be compelled by them to know more
Because you care; and you will push
Your limits to see more, feel more,
And in all of this you will become a better doctor.

That you will see frailty and seek
To be wise and compassionate.

That there will be times you will know what you don’t know
And be obliged
To know.

For integrity is priceless and, oftentimes, humor
will be your greatest medicine.

That you will cross the “interpersonal
chasm” between you and your patient with
life stories and expressions of your
own vulnerability.

For we will not only know “The Sounds
of Silence” but also, the sounds Of Borborygmi,
Of Eructation, Of Peristalsis and
Of Hamman’s Crunch.

For we will know Amiodarone,
That witch’s brew, can cease the
Quivering of the fibrillating heart.

Finally, let us rejoice in the
Knowledge of cavernous sinuses,
spots of Roth, and edema that pits.
Let us wade through fluid in the
Cul-de-sac, feel the waterhammer pulses of
Corrigan, and know of Quinke’s Blanching Pulse.
And in knowing these “pearls,”
We may thankfully rejoice, that I am,
Finally, at The End.

By André L. Churchwell, MD
February, 2014

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