The full poem is available here >>>>

(This is an extract for reading out in class:)

For love is the highest joy
For which reason the best hospital is a house of joy
even with rooms of pain and loss
exits of misunderstanding
For there is the mortar of faith
For it helps to believe
For Mozart can heal and no one knows where he is buried
For penicillin can heal
and the word
and the knife
For the placebo will work and you will think you know why
For the placebo will have side effects and you will know
you do not know why
For none of these may heal
For joy is nothing if not mysterious
For your patients will test you for spleen
and for the four humors
For they will know the answer
For they have the disease
For disease will peer up over the hedge
of health, with only its eyes showing
For the T waves will be peaked and you will not know why
For there will be computers
For there will be hard data and they will be hard
to understand
For the trivial will trap you and the important escape you
For the Committee will be unable to resolve the question
For there will be the arts
and some will call them
soft data
whereas in fact they are the hard data
by which our lives are lived
For everyone comes to the arts too late
For you can be trained to listen only for the oboe
out of the whole orchestra
For you may need to strain to hear the voice of the patient
in the thin reed of his crying
For you will learn to see most acutely out of
the corner of your eye
to hear best with your inner ear
For there are late signs and early signs
For the patient’s story will come to you
like hunger, like thirst
For you will know the answer
like second nature, like first
For the patient will live
and you will try to understand
For you will be amazed
or the patient will not live
and you will try to understand
For you will be baffled
For you will try to explain both, either, to the family …

For this is the beginning
Therefore, let us rejoice
Gaudeamus igitur.

* Therefore, let us rejoice

John Stone is a cardiologist and poet at Emory University School of Medicine. His work appears in five books of his own; he is also co-editor of On Doctoring: Stories, Poems, Essays, an anthology of literature and medicine that has been given to all American medical students by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation since 1991.