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State Press Play: How can the arts play a role in medicine?

ASU students lead poetry workshops for Westward Ho residents


Illustration published on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019.

In a partnership with downtown Phoenix’s Westward Ho, ASU students in the Poetry and Medicine course have been leading therapeutic poetry workshops with their professor and inaugural Phoenix Poet Laureate, Rosemarie Dombrowski

Dombrowski has been teaching such workshops for the past three years, but brought her knowledge to ASU for the first time this semester. She said her goal is to teach her students the importance of the reflection and conversation poetry can provide. 

“If we can’t talk about these things in the container of poetry, then we don’t have much chance as a society to have open and free discussions about these difficult subjects,” Dombrowski said. 

With the class being made of majority medicine students, Dombrowski emulates Harvard’s requirement of arts and humanities classes for their medical school. She hopes to encourage the next generation of doctors to cultivate empathy for their patients and give them the tools to help their patients process their health. 

“That’s what poetry teaches medical students to do — to be in an empathetic space,” Dombrowski said.

One of Dombrowski’s students, science of health care delivery senior Emiliano Espino, helped lead the first workshop at the Westward Ho last week. He expressed his excitement at the impact the class hopes to have on the Westward Ho residents.

“Having a community like Westward Ho where a lot of people don’t know each other because they don’t really talk to each other and bringing poetry to them allows them to tell all their stories and for them to know each other,” Espino said.

Espino credits Dr. Dombrowski as one of his most influential professors and shared in an interview on Tuesday how impactful the class has been on his own view of his future place in healthcare and the way the humanities can help everyone involved. 

“We’re working to fulfill a need that needs to be filled,” he said.

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