Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Mirror, Mirror on The Wall

"Mirror." Copyright with Andrew Kwok.


To become an excellent doctor, I learned to create a personalized medical education plan that plays to my strengths within the formal curriculum.

| September 14, 2023 | 2 min read

By Andrew Kwok, medical student, Albany Medical College



Where does it  



flipped by its side 


true intent. 

Human’s true nature— 


locked in 

a series of  

protective mechanisms, 



body unwilling  

to expose, 

to let go, 

afraid of 

shatters to 

the mirror box, 

the public self. 

With every shard 

that cuts 

and breaks, 

a mirror box 

is born, 

making the  

escape of  


even more so  


and impossible. 

Breaking boundaries, 


to learn 

to be loved 

and to 

love again.  


It wasn’t until I discovered William Carlos Williams’ poem “The Great Figure” that I found a poem that I could connect to, maybe because it’s composed in plain and simple language. Later, I found out that the artist Charles Demuth actually created the painting “I Saw the Figure Five in Gold” based off Williams’ poem. 


Welcome to the world of ekphrastic poetry. Traditionally defined as a “vivid description of a work of art,” ekphrastic poems became my satisfying method of releasing the emotions that were only spoken with my inner voice and never with my physical voice. I tell people who ask that ekphrasis is “the translation of one art form into another.” It is fluid and has no rules or restrictions—perhaps defining aspects IF it can be defined. Its beauty lies in the fact that there’s no correct answer—a concept that is perhaps lost or forgotten in the medical field.  


In my medical journey, I’m frustrated by the rigidity of the system and how traditional it can be. How do I know these courses, exams, and rotations are the right path for me? What about my own needs and interests? What if I learn and process things differently than most? Why do we strive to offer personalized medicine to patients when we don’t that in training?  


“Mirror” is an ekphrastic piece that first began with the painting, followed by the poem. It explores the not-so-truthful self and the struggle to become and exude one’s self. It portrays two beings made out of tears, performing an action in their own way. Both beings are the same person and the question becomes which is the true being? What are the consequences of our actions as the fake self?  


How many times have we participated in something (a class discussion, a workshop, a rotation) simply because we knew that it was required of us and that we were to be given a grade, a number, a “defining” statistic used to rank us. And within those situations, how many times did you feel forced to speak or act in a certain way either out of fear of getting a low score, or to get the highest score possible? When will we stop “playing by the system” to make our “defining” statistics the best it can be and just change the system to be what it should be: a personalized approach for all where everyone can act and speak out of their true selves. Perhaps a system can be standardized, but it does not mean that humans in those systems should be standardized as well.  










This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.