Fady Joudah, MD
Fady Joudah, MD

A visit from award-winning Palestinian-American poet and physician Fady Joudah, M.D., Sept. 13 kicked off the first event in the Arts & Resilience Program – a series of events at McGovern Medical School designed to link the arts and humanities with medicine.

Joudah, who won the 2007 Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition, recounted poetry and experiences from his life both inside and outside of medicine. He said being both a doctor and a writer means his life has been enriched in unique ways.

“I think one of the beautiful things about medicine that enriched my life as a writer is the language of medicine,” Joudah said. “It’s almost like learning a new language, especially in the way we incorporate into our daily speech and sometimes our public speech.”

An accomplished poet, Joudah is currently an internist affiliated with Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. He was born in Austin to Palestinian refugee parents, grew up in Libya and Saudi Arabia, and was later educated at the University of Georgia, the Medical College of Georgia, and the McGovern Medical School. Joudah worked in Africa as part of Doctors Without Borders and he currently lives in Bellaire with his family.

Growing up, becoming a poet had been something Joudah had also had interest in, but the reality wasn’t so clear.

“He kept telling me I could be a writer or a poet after I become a doctor,” Joudah said of his father. Becoming a “man of science” after pursuing a career in writing would have been difficult, his father told him. Nonetheless, Joudah continued to pursue writing, with a non-traditional approach to narratives, written in a truncated and almost “dream-like” fashion, which took its greatest shape during his residency.

“I think my relationship with poetry never left me since I was kid,” Joudah said.

Joudah read several poems, many of which he selected due to their more medically-oriented nature. His poems included a piece about the birth of his child and an experience in an anatomy lab. Throughout his readings, Joudah spoke of the importance understanding that art and medical science aren’t as divorced as one might think. In fact, looking at medicine through the lens of the humanities could be beneficial for everyone.

“I imagine doing so would make us a better society,” Joudah said.

At the conclusion of Joudah’s readings, freelance writer and editor Fritz Lanham interviewed Joudah and fielded several questions from the audience. Making a return to McGovern Medical School’s halls was a great experience, Joudah said.

“It’s a sense of home, and returns are always nice to experience,” Joudah said.

The next event in the Arts & Resilience Program will be noon Oct. 11 in the Fifth Floor Gallery and will feature pianist Mark Vogel with a presentation titled “The Physics of Music.” The program is sponsored by the Dean’s Office in collaboration with the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics.