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Charles Halsted, Professor Emeritus, UC Davis School of Medicine

Poetic Medicine

Poetic Medicine

I retired from UC Davis and the School of Medicine in 2016, after 43 years of challenging and rewarding teaching, conducting research, and caring for patients at UC Davis Medical Center. Prior to taking this step, I formed a men’s retirement group at the Unitarian Church of Davis, with a goal of learning how to adjust to this late stage of life. Our stories and readings re-enforced the overriding importance of developing a challenging new pastime in order to ward off late-in-life depression that often affects retirees with nothing to do.

I had obtained a liberal arts education at Stanford prior to embarking on my medical career and prided myself on the ability to provide accurate written descriptions of each of my subsequent patients and their illnesses. Initially attending a few local poetry workshops, I discovered the Stanford Continuing Studies program, and have now attended eight consecutive and rigorous 10-week on-line poetry courses. My confidence has been re-enforced by publication of a growing number of original poems on a variety of topics in different journals.

Based on my medical career, I have included a number of poems about medical illness and patient care in my growing repertoire. Here is a poem based on a patient I cared for in my outpatient clinic at UCDMC, a friend with colon cancer.

Quality of Life

I slid in the scope past ridges and caves,
along a dark tunnel with purplish seams –
twisting and turning till finally it gave
out to a space where a pebbly lump gleamed.

From the end of the tunnel with purplish seams,
his life would be shortened by bloody ooze
into the space where the pebbly lump gleamed.
I slipped forceps through to give me a clue

from a piece of the lump with its bloody ooze,
which I sent to the lab to find out why he bled.
Cancer was the answer to the pebbly lump clue.
I’d have to tell him now, although the news would be dread.

When he awoke I told him why he’d bled.
“You’ve saved my life,” was his reply.
Although the long-term prognosis was dread,
with surgery, he would not yet die.

To live life to the full was his reply
to the cards he’d been dealt by unwelcome fate.
Though his life might be short, he would not die
till he’d done all he could that remained on his plate.

For six long years he ignored his fate.
He traveled and painted, did all he had planned,
put aside all fears that remained on his plate,
till a spot appeared on a liver scan.

The cancer’s return was not part of his plan.
Chemo became his only choice,
with puking and numbing and further scans,
until I had to tell him with quavering voice:

“No more can be done, you’ve no more choice,”
knowing full well that in weeks he’d be dead.
He rose from his chair and replied with clear voice:
“You gave me six years of life,” was all he said.

© Charles Halsted (published in Blood and Thunder, 2016)

October 13, 2017

Charles Halsted, Professor Emeritus, UC Davis School of Medicine

Poetic Medicine

Poetic Medicine

I retired from UC Davis and the School of Medicine in 2016, after 43 years of challenging and rewarding teaching, conducting research, and caring for patients at UC Davis Medical Center. Prior to taking this step, I formed a men’s retirement group at the Unitarian Church of Davis, with a goal of learning how to adjust to this late stage of life. Our stories and readings re-enforced the overriding importance of developing a challenging new pastime in order to ward off late-in-life depression that often affects retirees with nothing to do.

I had obtained a liberal arts education at Stanford prior to embarking on my medical career and prided myself on the ability to provide accurate written descriptions of each of my subsequent patients and their illnesses. Initially attending a few local poetry workshops, I discovered the Stanford Continuing Studies program, and have now attended eight consecutive and rigorous 10-week on-line poetry courses. My confidence has been re-enforced by publication of a growing number of original poems on a variety of topics in different journals.

Based on my medical career, I have included a number of poems about medical illness and patient care in my growing repertoire. Here is a poem based on a patient I cared for in my outpatient clinic at UCDMC, a friend with colon cancer.

Quality of Life

I slid in the scope past ridges and caves,
along a dark tunnel with purplish seams –
twisting and turning till finally it gave
out to a space where a pebbly lump gleamed.

From the end of the tunnel with purplish seams,
his life would be shortened by bloody ooze
into the space where the pebbly lump gleamed.
I slipped forceps through to give me a clue

from a piece of the lump with its bloody ooze,
which I sent to the lab to find out why he bled.
Cancer was the answer to the pebbly lump clue.
I’d have to tell him now, although the news would be dread.

When he awoke I told him why he’d bled.
“You’ve saved my life,” was his reply.
Although the long-term prognosis was dread,
with surgery, he would not yet die.

To live life to the full was his reply
to the cards he’d been dealt by unwelcome fate.
Though his life might be short, he would not die
till he’d done all he could that remained on his plate.

For six long years he ignored his fate.
He traveled and painted, did all he had planned,
put aside all fears that remained on his plate,
till a spot appeared on a liver scan.

The cancer’s return was not part of his plan.
Chemo became his only choice,
with puking and numbing and further scans,
until I had to tell him with quavering voice:

“No more can be done, you’ve no more choice,”
knowing full well that in weeks he’d be dead.
He rose from his chair and replied with clear voice:
“You gave me six years of life,” was all he said.

© Charles Halsted (published in Blood and Thunder, 2016)

October 13, 2017

Charles Halsted, Professor Emeritus, UC Davis School of Medicine

Poetic Medicine

Poetic Medicine

I retired from UC Davis and the School of Medicine in 2016, after 43 years of challenging and rewarding teaching, conducting research, and caring for patients at UC Davis Medical Center. Prior to taking this step, I formed a men’s retirement group at the Unitarian Church of Davis, with a goal of learning how to adjust to this late stage of life. Our stories and readings re-enforced the overriding importance of developing a challenging new pastime in order to ward off late-in-life depression that often affects retirees with nothing to do.

I had obtained a liberal arts education at Stanford prior to embarking on my medical career and prided myself on the ability to provide accurate written descriptions of each of my subsequent patients and their illnesses. Initially attending a few local poetry workshops, I discovered the Stanford Continuing Studies program, and have now attended eight consecutive and rigorous 10-week on-line poetry courses. My confidence has been re-enforced by publication of a growing number of original poems on a variety of topics in different journals.

Based on my medical career, I have included a number of poems about medical illness and patient care in my growing repertoire. Here is a poem based on a patient I cared for in my outpatient clinic at UCDMC, a friend with colon cancer.

Quality of Life

I slid in the scope past ridges and caves,
along a dark tunnel with purplish seams –
twisting and turning till finally it gave
out to a space where a pebbly lump gleamed.

From the end of the tunnel with purplish seams,
his life would be shortened by bloody ooze
into the space where the pebbly lump gleamed.
I slipped forceps through to give me a clue

from a piece of the lump with its bloody ooze,
which I sent to the lab to find out why he bled.
Cancer was the answer to the pebbly lump clue.
I’d have to tell him now, although the news would be dread.

When he awoke I told him why he’d bled.
“You’ve saved my life,” was his reply.
Although the long-term prognosis was dread,
with surgery, he would not yet die.

To live life to the full was his reply
to the cards he’d been dealt by unwelcome fate.
Though his life might be short, he would not die
till he’d done all he could that remained on his plate.

For six long years he ignored his fate.
He traveled and painted, did all he had planned,
put aside all fears that remained on his plate,
till a spot appeared on a liver scan.

The cancer’s return was not part of his plan.
Chemo became his only choice,
with puking and numbing and further scans,
until I had to tell him with quavering voice:

“No more can be done, you’ve no more choice,”
knowing full well that in weeks he’d be dead.
He rose from his chair and replied with clear voice:
“You gave me six years of life,” was all he said.

© Charles Halsted (published in Blood and Thunder, 2016)

October 13, 2017

The UC Davis Retiree Center is located in Suite 110 on the first floor of the Walter A. Buehler Alumni Center on the Davis campus. The Retiree Center is generally staffed from 9-12 and 1-4, Monday through Friday. However, we are a two-person office, so please call prior to visiting to ensure that someone will be available. Contact the Center at:

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Current Events

UC Davis Emeriti In The News

Sarah Hrdy cited in The Atlantic; 12/5/2017

Professor emeritus Sarah Hrdy shared her thoughts on how the origins on storytelling do not reflect its modern-day purpose. Read the full article.

Nicole Biggart writes column "What's it like for a sociologist at Burning Man?"; 11/26/2017

Nicole Biggart, former dean of UC Davis Graduate School of Management, published a column in "The Davis Enterprise"

UC Davis Emeriti In The News

Peter Moyle co-authored op-ed piece on Central Valley flood protection; 11/21/2017

Distinguished professor emeritus and associate director of the Center for Watershed Sciences, Peter Moyle shared his thoughts on the what-could-have-been of California's record water year and provided support for plans of future flood protection. Read the full article.

Learn more; go to UCDEA membership pageLearn more/memberhip information

link to 2016 survey of emeriti activity

UC Davis Emeriti In The News

Emeritus Professors Make a Case for Campuses to Tap Their Talents-- The Chronicle of Higher Education


Dr. Isao Fujimoto wins prestigious Constantine Panunzio Distinguished Emeritus award

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03/18/2016

The 2016 Constantine Panunzio Distinguished Emeriti Award has been awarded to Professor Emeritus of Asian American Studies, Isao Fujimoto of UC Davis and Professor Emeritus of History, Peter Kenez, UC Santa Cruz. Read more

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The Retiree Center is located on the south east portion of the UC Davis campus in the Walter A. Buehler Alumni Center. The parking structure is located to the south of the building.

BrainFood Talk

Academics without Borders USA (AWBUSA) helps higher education in emerging nations

  • Date: Thursday, November 12
  • Time: 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.; talk begins at noon
  • Location: AGR Hall, Buehler Alumni Center, Davis campus (driving directions)
  • Courtesy golf cart shuttle will be provided to and from Gateway Parking Structure
  • No need to register

AWBUSA, founded by UC Davis affiliates, is a new non-profit organization that supports higher education in developing countries by helping to build and enhance universities' capabilities. Recently, AWBUSA supported UCD volunteers traveling to Sri Lanka to help the university there create a new interdisciplinary program based on the UC Davis One Health model. Highlights of this project will be presented along with an opportunity to learn more about AWBUSA's global efforts and upcoming volunteer opportunities.

Bring your own lunch and come at 11:30 to socialize. The UCDEA provides coffee, tea and cookies.

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