Doctor Poets & Other Healers: Covid in Their Own Words
Editors: Thelma T. Reyna, Frank L. Meyskens, Jr., Johanna Shapiro
41 Poems ~ 10 Personal Essays ~ 130 Pages
Price: $18.95
Publisher: Golden Foothills Press
ISBN: 978-1-7372481-0-1
To Order:


In year 2 of Covid-19, the pandemic continues to rage worldwide—with the loss of human life in the U.S. alone surpassing 800,000 in less than 24 months. But the heroism and devotion of U.S. healthcare workers stand strong. Despite burnout. Despite assaults by virus-deniers, anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers. Despite purveyors of misinformation that have hobbled our nation’s recovery. In this anthology, 26 poets and essayists—physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, private caregivers, holistic practitioners, medical school students, and a hospital chaplain—share their personal experiences tending to patients, dealing with loss, uncertainty, grief, and isolation, surviving in a world turned topsy-turvy by a once-in-a-century pandemic. Surviving through resilience, selflessness, and the eternal flame of hope.


“Here, in this vital anthology, we hear the voices of those who have done the most to try to heal us and see us through this pandemic. … We learn how the health care workers survived … to walk the halls of hospitals with some vestige of hope again. But it is the poems that really witness to the feelings we could not feel at the time--because it was too raw. … A collective trauma: in essence, that is what this volume bears witness to and gives us a vision of healing.”
—Cassie Premo Steele, Ph.D. National Award-Winning Poet and author of We Heal from Memory

“For anyone seeking to find meaning beyond the pain, fear, and solitude experienced by healthcare providers, this book reveals the hope, commitment, and solutions for survival that lie beneath. By exposing the souls of our cherished healthcare providers, human touch and caring save the day. …”
—Adey M. Nyamathi, ANP, PhD, FAAN Founding Dean and Distinguished Professor, Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing University of California, Irvine

“Really powerful. … The collection builds to an unexpected crescendo … with one piece seeming to reinforce and inform another, producing a cohesive and mystical experience through reading, sharing, and remembering.”
—Carolyn Clark, Ph.D. Writing Teacher & Poet Leader and author of Poet Duet: A Mother and Daughter

“In this moving anthology of poems and short prose pieces, witnesses to the pandemic and to other crises in care document the efforts of healing, the pain of loss, the struggles of chronic illness, and the power of hugging …”
—Julia Reinhard Lupton, Ph.D. Professor of English University of California, Irvine, author of Shakespeare Dwelling: Designs for the Theater of Life

“A courageous, beautiful collection of writings. …”
—Alejandro Morales, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus University of California, Irvine, author of Zapote Tree , a poetry collection

“… Myriad voices populate this rich time capsule of those who strive to meet the pressing medical needs during the pandemic, sometimes at the expense of their and their families’ own health and safety. The poems and essays contained are urgent, moving, and vary from right in the belly of the medical crisis, to a rare moment of reflection away from their practice. An essential, vibrant, at times painful, artifact that will leave a lasting impact.”
—Carla R. Sameth Award-Winning Writer Author of One Day on the Gold Line


Coming from different fields—the literary world (Dr. Thelma Reyna); oncology and scientific research (Dr. Frank Meyskens); and psychology and medical school humanities (Dr. Johanna Shapiro)—the co-editors have collaborated before on a major healing and hope project: a virtual health symposium under the auspices of University of California, Irvine, during the first year of the pandemic. They dealt with the theme of poetry in helping to overcome grief and helping to heal. They will coordinate the 5th Annual version of the symposium in 2022. This book is a natural outgrowth of their work and focus.

Thelma T. Reyna, Ph.D., Chief Editor, received her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from UCLA. Her poetry, short fiction, and nonfiction have collectively won 20 national and international book awards. She has written 6 books—a short story collection, 2 poetry chapbooks, 2 full-length poetry collections, and a memoir in poetry—and edited 3 award-winning anthologies. She was Poet Laureate in Altadena, CA, in 2014-2016 and edited the Altadena Poetry Review Anthology in both those years. In 2020, she also edited When the Virus Came Calling: COVID-19 Strikes America, a national award-winning anthology of 46 authors from across the U.S. that depicted the first 7 months of the pandemic in real time in poetry, personal essays, and a short story. It received 5 book honors in 2020-2021, with the most recent being a Silver Medal in the Nonfiction/Political Issues category of the International Latino Book Awards. She was a 2017 Pushcart Prize Nominee in Poetry.

Dr. Frank L. Meyskens, Jr., M.D., F.A.C.P., is Distinguished Professor of Medicine Emeritus and Founding Director of the NCI-nationally designated Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, Irvine (UCI); an internationally renowned Physician Scientist; co-founder of the field of chemo-prevention for AACR, ASCO, and SWOG; and co-developer of several clinical chemoprevention companies. Since 2001, he has helped develop the field of end-of-life medicine. Dr. Meyskens has earned acclaim for his poetry and co-editing of a column, “Poetry for Cancer Caregivers,” in Oncology Times. He has published in varied academic venues and was designated as Poet Laureate for ASCO. His two books of patient, care-giver, and family-themed poetry are Believing in Today (2014) and Aching for Tomorrow (2015). In 2018 he co-organized the highly successful “1st Annual Symposium on Healing and Hope,” which continues with the 5th Annual Symposium in February 2022.

Johanna Shapiro, Ph.D., is Professor Emerita of Family Medicine and Founder-Director of the Program in Medical Humanities & Arts, University of California, Irvine (UCI), School of Medicine. She is the recipient of many teaching awards, including STFM’s Humanism in Medicine Award in 2020 and UCI’s Lauds & Laurels Outstanding Faculty Achievement Award. Dr. Shapiro’s scholarship focuses on professional identity formation in medical education, including the impact of training on student empathy, medical student-patient relationships, and management of difficult clinical encounters. She is widely published in medical humanities, and her poetry has appeared in journals such as Pulse, The Healing Muse, Journal of General Internal Medicine, and JAMA. Her book, The Inner World of Medical Students: Listening to Their Voices in Poetry (2009), is a critical analysis of vital themes in the socialization of medical students as expressed in their creative writing. She is co-founder and co-coordinator of the “Annual Symposium on Healing and Hope” series hosted by UC


Absent and Present
by Rodica Stan

I came home, father, but I have missed you.
COVID has kidnapped you, for good, and
I can only replay ad infinitum that last phone call and
That last FaceTime minute, you of breathless words, so lonely,
Waving from an ambulance bed on the way to your final home.

I came home, father, months after you’d left us.
Looking for your presence, fighting your absence,
Not able to cry in front of your tombstone, and
Not able to unmiss you in the garden, overcome by words,
By the book stack on your bedside, by your coffee cup on the table.

I felt your absence, where you were, in the cemetery,
I felt your presence where you were not, on the right side of the sofa,
In the henhouse picking fresh eggs for our simple family dinners,
Under my arm walking to the market to buy peppers,
In the pictures of us from decades ago, exploring the Carpathian Mountains.

I am at home, father, alone with your absence and your presence,
With the poems you scribbled like prayers in your notebook,
Mourning you and millions we have let go in the chokehold of COVID.
Why have we, the world, broken into many
When we fought one virus?


Return to:

[New] [Archives] [Join] [Contact Us] [Poetry in Motion] [Store] [Staff] [Guidelines]