The Physician Poetry Connection: A Reemerging Trend


The connection between poetry and medicine has long been seen throughout history. In Greek mythology, the god Apollo’s powers included the arts of healing and poetry.  In the 19th century, famous physician-poet John Keats was an English doctor who went on to write many works of poetry.  Among the most famous of all American physician-poets was William Carlos Williams, a doctor that won a Pulitzer Prize for one of his poetry books and published twenty one poetry collections while practicing medicine.   More recently, there has been a renaissance of sorts with an increasing number of doctors using their skills as poets, as well as their medical training, to aid patients. 

The modern day physician can connect with their ill patients on a different level with the use of poetry, providing increased empathy and emotional support to these individuals.  This reemerging trend in medicine is in keeping with the desire of doctors to treat patients as whole individuals.  In addition, by using their poetic skills, doctors are able to better deal with the inherent high stress levels and emotional demands involved in their caretaker roles.  In keeping with this philosophy of merging poetry with medicine, the Yale School of Medicine each year sponsors a poetry contest for its medical students to encourage them to develop not only their medical expertise but also their poetic prowess.  

Dr. Michael Lee is s a physician-poet that has also embraced the physician poetry connection by writing his funny, entertaining book of poetry titled NOT GONNA WRITE POEMS, while working at the same time as a full-time, urgent care doctor in Long Island, NY.  Dr. Lee’s talent as a writer of verses has served him well in his medical career, as he has been able to incorporate his unique wit and humour in his practice to help his patients deal with their illnesses.

“Medicine has always had an inherent duality to it since the practice of medicine is both an art and science,” Dr. Lee admits.  “With my poetry and medical skills, I can treat my patients in their entirety—their bodies, minds and spirits.”

 Dr. Lee’s humorous poetry book helps him bring levity and joy into the lives of his patients. “Laughter is the best medicine,” Lee says, “since it helps us all cope with sadness, loss, pain and suffering.”  “If my poetry can bring a few moments of fun into a patient’s life and make them smile and laugh, then I’ve accomplished my goal as a physician healer and poet.”

NOT GONNA WRITE POEMS  is Dr. Michael Lee’s debut poetry book and while it is geared especially for children, it is a book meant to be shared with the entire family.  Dr. Lee wrote the 78 verses in the anthology, while both he and his 10 year old daughter drew the accompanying amusing illustrations for the book.  “My book was a family affair,” Dr. Lee adds, “since I initially wrote the book to entertain my wife and daughter and then I enlisted my daughter’s drawing talents to help me with the many illustrations in the book.”  Now Dr. Lee’s self-published book of poetry is doing more than just providing a few laughs in the Lee household; it is a collection of humorous verses and sketches that will entertain children and adults in the USA and around the world.

Although the medical field continues to face many challenges ahead, from rising costs of healthcare to doctor shortages, we can all take some comfort in knowing that caring doctors like Dr. Michael Lee, who are as skilled in creating funny poetic verses as they are in providing compassionate medical care, will continue to nurture the bonds between physician and patients.  You can read more about Dr. Lee’s book and story on his website page:

Dr. Lee will also be signing and discussing his book of poetry at the upcoming Book Expo America and Book Con in NYC’s Jacob Javits Center from May 29-June 2nd, 2019.  He will be one of the featured authors at the Agora Publishing booth at the Book Expo.