Michael R Berman MD MBI FACOG
October 28, 2021
Details of all programs
Maternl believes that we who have taken the "Oath" to practice our sacred profession of medicine and we who have committed ourselves to the healing arts must do so with the imperative to respect the sanctity of health for all those we treat - with a sense of high privilege-for they are the flesh and blood and souls of our humanity - past, present and future - and we, by our choice, their guardians. Maternl through our writings, poems, personal thoughts and unique programs strives to promote these tenets.
Our words are songs
The impact of words is universal. Words particularly in the form of poetry can uniquely bridge the chasm of what to say and what is felt at significant times in all of our lives. Through metaphor and allusion, rhyming and meter; for eulogy and celebration; for love, understanding and hope, poetry matters significantly. Poetry enables me to ask why even when we already understand how. It permits me as a Doctor of Medicine, witness to the frailties of our humanity, to abet healing through the very core of what makes us human, our language and our personal emotions. It has been my platform to tell my 'stories', to honor my patients, my friends, my family and indeed, the essence of humanity, the "family of man". We as healthcare professionals have a need and obligation to care for others. Whether in academic, research or clinical practice, laboratory medicine or diagnostic imaging, the healthcare professionals' role is to bring comfort and to heal. From such healing comes self-reward, self-fulfillment and honor. If we are surrounded by despair and inequities and have the opportunity to help with their dissolution, it is our obligation to do so. Such has been my mission as a physician, an obstetrician, through my work and my poetry. If one person, one family, can be helped or can gather hope through the words we write and say, it can bring reward equal to the healing with our hands and minds. Hope is a singular gift we must never destroy in ourselves. Poetry is its instrument whose music can be its enabler. Words we write, words we read, and words we hear can serve as an invaluable source of healing. Words are songs from our hearts and can be "songs of hope, songs for hope"
"The physicians of the Hippocratic era called medicine 'The Art'. They knew that the care of their fellows was an act of creativity. They also recognized that each patient and his or her physician form a bond that is unique unto itself. That bond is the foundation upon which healing takes place." 1
Moses Maimonides, "the most important Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages" wrote "The eternal providence has appointed me to watch over the life and health of Thy creatures... my lofty aim of doing good to Thy children...may I never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain" 2
Both citations above speak of patients as "fellows" and "human[sic] creatures and children...". This must commit us who have taken the "Oath" to practice our sacred profession of medicine with an imperative to respect the sanctity of life and health for all those we treat-with a sense of high privilege- for they are the flesh and blood and souls of all humanity - past, present and future-and we, by our choice, their guardians.
There is no place for bias or prejudice or disparate care in our healthcare systems. I have tried in my half-century of caring for patients to follow this philosophy. Now, no longer in clinical practice, I have turned my passion and energies to creating this platform, Maternl©.
A brief personal thought:
"I am first a physician, a distant disciple of Aesculapius and Hippocrates3; a clinician, a teacher, and a student. I am an Obstetrician. I stand before my patients4 and facilitate their births. I share their joys; I feel their pains. Yet, caring for the well-being and the illnesses of patients and their families is to accept that medical science in all its depth and possibilities is not precise and that the human mind and flesh are perishable. We are today steeped in myriad medical technologies that in themselves bring hope to previously hopeless conditions and pathologies. Yet there remains inexorable suffering which accompanies failures and tribulations not only of these new medical technologies but of pervasive disparities which exist to deny access to and recipient of one standard of care for all, disparities defined by the social determinants of health:5 the paradox of our societies to both cure and cause pain which is real and evident.
About the Poetry of Maternl
Though our spirits may fade and our viscera bleed, we are enabled by the agents of our humanity empowered by ancestral song and promise (Berman, 1999)
Comfort may be achieved through the transfer of the poet's feelings into the reader or listener's mind. It transports the reader from the distractions and influences of the outside world inward to the internal rhythms and solace of the personal soul. The poet becomes a healer and his poetry his staff. Through verse and meter, free of inhibition yet full with expression, the poet may articulate a sensitivity and empathy and provoke this introspection and inner peace. A poem is transformed into a message of hope. There is wonderment and magic in the words of a poem. Each word is selected for its individual meaning within the context of the entire poem. A few properly selected words can move the reader to tears and awaken the primal emotions of joy, promise, despair and hope. A poet should evoke emotion in his work and write as if each poem is written with the poet's last words.
The language of poetry, within the broader context of its 'parent body' (literature,) has always had as its great themes, love, loss and death. The inclusion of hope to these thematic elements is worthwhile if not essential for, (as humans) we have the capacity to bring hope to a despair that is uniquely created by our humanity and our human conditions.
As an Obstetrician, my professional career has involved a striving to bring comfort and healing to children, born and yet to born, and to mothers through their years of childbearing and beyond. It has been the cause in my life. I have been uplifted by the triumphs of birth and healing and depressed by the failures. Yet I have always tried to look beyond the failures in search of the triumphs. I have counseled patients at the darkest times of their lives, when their children have died, and I have turned to the comfort of personal reflection, poetry and self-expression to better help me help my patients. I have learned that by writing down thoughts which might elucidate my feelings more clearly than the spoken word, I have become a better physician.
"By making us stop for a moment, poetry gives us an opportunity to think about ourselves as human beings on this planet and what we mean to each other." Rita Dove
"Only those within whose own consciousness the suns rise and set, the leaves burgeon and wither,can be said to be aware of what living is." Joseph Wood Krutch
Some thoughts about caring for the Loss of a pregnancy or newborn
Although the stillborn baby which might have been born viable represents the greatest emotional and management challenges, we must recognize any loss in pregnancy as a life-altering event for our patients. The care of the patient experiencing a Pregnancy Loss is a paradigm for what we do as physicians. It tests not only our clinical skills and judgments but stretches the fibers of the human aspect of caring very thin. Although we might ask, "how can we heal when our patients' children are incurable, when they are suffering or when they die or what do we do when the advanced technology that has become a part of our black bag fails", we must understand that we can heal by providing comfort , empathy and hope. As bad as this experience is for our patients, we can make it better. If we remain aware that we are the link between the stillborn baby and the bereaved family, that we were the first to touch and hold their child, albeit their stillborn child, then we can share this with them, remember this with them, and from this point forward, heal with them. The bond we form becomes the unbreakable fiber, which strengthens and indeed cements our role in the doctor-patient relationship.
Preview a poem
Going forward (l)
Today are times of much despair
Yet times of great hope
To affirm our oath
As unfiltered reason and purpose
Rush in our blood
Every pulse a wave
Approaching distant shores
To leave our prejudice behind
To fade into vapors
As common as fog
And guide us to plant
Roots to bond our humanhood and
Vines to grow our brotherhood
As we go forth into tomorrow.