2016 Intima Essay Contest Winners

Nervous . Ahmed Salahudeen, Fall 2015  Intima

Nervous. Ahmed Salahudeen, Fall 2015 Intima


"Patients, Providers and Pets: One Health for All"


Winning essay

"Heal!" by Randy Hale




Honorable Mentions include work by Catherine Cherry, Krista Dobbie, Greg Mahr and Connie Shi.

In Being Mortal, surgeon Atul Gawande recounts a story about the way two dogs, two cats and 100 parakeets had measurable effects on the residents of the Chase Memorial Nursing Home in New Berlin, NY, when the medical director brought the menagerie in to solve the “Three Plagues of nursing home existence: boredom, loneliness, and helplessness.” Residents were given the responsibility of caring for their new housemates, and the results were astounding:

The number of prescriptions required per resident fell to half that of a control nursing home. Psychotropic drugs for agitation, like Haldol, decreased in particular. The total drug costs fell to just 38 percent of the comparison facility. Deaths fell 15 percent. The study couldn’t say why. But Bill Thomas [the medical director responsible for bringing in the menagerie] thought he could. “I believe the difference in death rates can be traced to the fundamental human need for a reason to live.”

Recently, the term zooeyia has been coined to account for the salutary effects pets bestow upon humans. It is contrary to zoonosis, or disease stemming from animals. For quite some time now, healthcare professionals have acknowledged that pets may improve human life expectancy and quality. The relevant literature mainly focuses on “animal-assisted therapy” in hospitals for terminal patients, showing that patients live longer and cope with their disease better whenever they have a pet companion. But zooeyia extends farther: it has been shown that having pets reduces systemic and pulmonary blood pressure, reduces anxiety and pain and increases overall happiness and well-being; dog owners perform more exercise compared to non-dog owners and report a better social life; pets encourage smoking cessation and reduce the risk of myocardial infarction.

The science behind zooeyia is arguably here, now we have the narrative. The purpose of the contest was to provide a space for people to share their stories about how an external force outside the clinical environment changed the course of their medical condition or treatment.


  •  The Editorial Board of the Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine
  • Byers Shaw, M.D., author of Last Night in the OR: A Transplant Surgeon’s Odyssey
Dr. Shaw's writing in  Last Night in the OR  has the brevity and power of a Raymond Carver short story.

Dr. Shaw's writing in Last Night in the OR has the brevity and power of a Raymond Carver short story.

 Born in 1950, Bud Shaw grew up the oldest child of a general surgeon in rural south central Ohio. He graduated with an AB in Chemistry from Kenyon College in 1972 and received his MD degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in 1976. In 1981, he completed a surgery residency at the University of Utah, then trained in Pittsburgh under Tom Starzl, the father of liver transplantation. An internationally renowned transplant surgeon by age 35, Shaw left Pittsburgh in 1985 to start a new transplant program in Nebraska that quickly became one of the most respected transplant centers in the world. 

An author of 300 journal articles, 50 book chapters, and a founding editor of the prestigious journal, Liver Transplantation, he retired from active practice and the department chairmanship in 2009, and now focuses on writing, teaching and the value of narrative studies in medical education and clinical practice.

Bud Shaw, M.D.

Bud Shaw, M.D.

His prize-winning essay, My Night With Ellen Hutchinson, published in Creative Nonfiction Magazine, was nominated for a 2013 Pushcart Prize and received Special Mention. His beautifully written memoir, Last Night in the OR: A Transplant Surgeon’s Odyssey has just been published by Plume. The father of three adult children, Shaw lives with his wife, novelist Rebecca Rotert (Shaw) in the wooded hills north of Omaha, Nebraska.


Vision of contest

The world of medicine is often criticized as being too distant and atomistic, and as tests, diagnoses, and treatments become more sophisticated, an important component—the patient’s story—often gets lost: A chart commonly contains a medical history, but lacks the patient’s narrative and with the ubiquity of EMR, notations are even more impersonal and data-driven. 

 Our essay contest aims to bridge this gap between the patient’s medical history and narrative. The Intima Essay Contest brings together students of the medical sciences and humanities, medical practitioners, medical humanists and bioethicists, patients, and those interested in the power of narrative in medicine. Every year, we examine a different theme linking the science of medicine to the art of medicine. Our aim is to amplify, enhance and humanize the clinical voice and bring patients and medical professionals together into an instructive dialogue.