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Letter from the Editors: The Art of Medicine

Welcome to Iris, the medical humanities journal of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine!

As medical students, we dedicate much time to studying the scientific foundations of medicine—anatomy, physiology, pathology and pharmacology. To be sure, these foundational studies are important. Just as a pianist drills her scales, so we pursue our studies. Without a commitment to science and its advancement, we would be left with an unenlightened and ineffectual medicine. The art and practice of medicine, however, requires more of us.

W.B. Yeats once remarked that he didn’t care much for the scientific abstraction of the formula H2O, saying that he preferred “a little seaweed” in his water. There is a certain messiness and heterogeneity to life outside of the lab that formulas and scientific models simply cannot capture. Through Iris, we hope to foster a discourse that prepares us for the complexity of practice of medicine beyond technical proficiency and scientific prowess.

A musician may be a master of theory and play a piece with great technical precision, yet the performance may fall flat. In the same way, a doctor can be a diagnostic virtuoso and a pharmacological expert and not be a great physician. In music, it is the performer’s interpretation of the phrasing and prosody of a work that makes it great. In the same way, it is interpretive work that takes a physician from effective technocrat to great doctor. Iris is dedicated to this interpretive work.

The name Iris echoes the iris of the eye, a feature of the body unique to every person. The iris also provides the frame through which we see the world—a point of view. Each iris is unique. The prose, poetry, painting, and photography contained within Iris represent the perspectives of diverse students who have come to UNC by different paths and will continue along different paths when we leave this beloved place. The journey we share together through medical school is a precious time devoted to the exchange of ideas and the co-creation of knowledge.

We hope that you will enjoy the creative work contained in this journal and that you will find your own perspectives enriched.

Kristen Larson and Bailey Sanford

IRIS Editors-in-Chief