UAMS Celebrates Creative Writing at Second Annual Mehta Awards

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Jawahar “Jay” Mehta, MD, Ph.D., Paulette Mehta, MD, MPH, (left) and Stephanie Gardner (right), Pharm. D., Ed.D., pose with the three winners.

Image by Evan Lewis

Beginning in 2020, a generous endowment has been provided to encourage employees and students to explore creative writing as a means of discovering life, connecting with patients, and alleviating work-related stress. Drs. The Paulette and Jay Mehta Prize in Creative Writing grew out of the idea that the creative arts can help healthcare providers process their experiences and express their artistic insight through poetry and storytelling.

On May 25, an in-person awards ceremony was held to honor the three winners of the second annual Mehta Awards (due to the COVID-19 restriction, last year’s ceremony was held virtually).

Paulette Mehta

Paulette Mehta, MD, MPH, professor of internal medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology, addresses ceremony attendees.Evan Lewis

The program, an annual invitation that accepts written submissions from all areas of UAMS, was made possible through a generous donation from Paulette Mehta, MD, MPH, professor of internal medicine in the Division of Hematology and oncology, and Jawahar “Jay” Mehta, MD, Ph.D., professor emeritus in the Division of Cardiology, Physiology, and Biophysics in the Department of Internal Medicine. Under the auspices of the Department of Medical Humanities and Bioethics, the program is a continuation of Mehtas’ efforts to create a “cultural renaissance” at UAMS, which includes managing the publication of the literary journal of the UAMS. Medicine and senses.

“There are many reasons why physicians should write, but this is perhaps the most important to help heal, not just for our patients, but for ourselves,” said Paulette Mehta. “Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was observed that around 50% of UAMS staff suffered from burnout. However, those who had meaning in their work were more resilient to burnout, and we believe creative expression is a great way to develop that sense of meaning.

Submissions for the Mehta Awards were accepted in fall 2021, with over 40 members of the UAMS community submitting works of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Entries were blindly reviewed by a committee, and ultimately one work from each of the three categories was elevated to first prize, receiving a $600 prize and a plaque, with four additional works receiving honorable mention. All winning works will be published in the summer supplement of Medicine and senses.

Submissions recognized for First Prize and Honorable Mention include:

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  • Poetry Prize Winner: Life Outside the Cell by Samuel Byrd
  • Fiction Award Winner: “Feeding the Animals” by Stephen Nix, MD
  • Creative Nonfiction Award Winner: “The Window” by Elizabeth Hanson, MD

Honorable Mention

  • “Losing Keller” by Lindsey Johnson, RN
  • “Weary Land” by F. Alex Wells, MA
  • “The Last Days of Silky Wooten” by Jamie Watson, Ph.D.
  • “On Sustaining Humanity in Medicine” by Jaleesa Jackson, MD

During the ceremony, Byrd read his poem and Nix and Hanson read excerpts from their short stories.

While it is an honor to be recognized, it is ultimately the hope of the organizers that the program will inspire creative expression, in many forms, such as ways

Stephanie Gardner

Stephanie Gardner, Pharm. D., Ed.D., UAMS Provost and Chief Strategy Officer, delivers the opening ceremony remarks.Evan Lewis

to communicate feelings and connect with others on deep levels, especially to manage the high demands of healthcare – representing an intersection between science and art.

“These awards are testament to the Mehta’s belief in the ability of creativity and the arts to nurture our minds, cultivate lifelong learning, and guide us to become better healthcare providers,” said said Stephanie Gardner, Pharm. D., Ed.D., UAMS Provost and Chief Strategy Officer. “As we find more and more ways to integrate the arts into health professions education – whether it’s the written word, the visual arts or music – I think we are equipping our learners with a powerful tool to help them build deeper connections with the patient, maintain joy in medicine, and develop empathy and resilience.

The chair of the review committee is D. Micah Hester, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Medical Humanities and Bioethics. The review committee is comprised of Eliza Borné, Central Arkansas Library System; Lindsey Clark, MPH, MLS, UAMS College of Health Professions; Chris Dumas, Ph.D., MFA, UAMS College of Nursing; Casey Kayser, Ph.D., University of Arkansas – Fayetteville English Department; and Angela Scott, MD, Ph.D., Department of Medical Humanities and Bioethics at UAMS.