For 30 years, I’ve been a GP in the Northern Rivers region of NSW — where I combine clinical work with an active role in medical education. Where possible, I use creative techniques to help doctors understand the personal side of medicine. I am frequently invited to run creative writing workshops for doctors, which is a bit odd when I consider that, until 15 years ago, I’d never have even dreamed of calling myself a ‘writer’. About that time, I was looking after a woman in my practice with very severe depression and, while it was a challenging clinical scenario for many complex reasons, I thought we had developed a therapeutic bond, and that my care was helping her. She was a poet and had written some poems about her experience with depression. I was interested to read the poems, and she was happy to share them with me. Flicking through the thick pile of poems late one night, I realised one of the poems might have been about me. I started reading it, hoping to find myself reflected as her hero, her knight in shining armour. Unfortunately, the poem turned out to be very derogatory. She described me as being naive, cruel and ignorant. It even finished with a line about how she might as well find a vet. I was shocked. Filled with emotions.  None of them very positive. It was late at night. There was no one to talk to. I looked at the glass of red wine next to me, thinking there is not enough red wine in the world to quell the emotions I was feeling. It was then that I was struck with a thought that changed the course of my life.  It went something like this: ‘Well, if it was good enough for her to write a poem about me, maybe I could write a poem about her.’ It wasn’t a very mature thought and it was unusual because I hadn’t written a poem since primary school. But as I picked up the pen and started writing, the pen led me somewhere a -little bit unexpected, as the anger and resentment quickly dissolved and I felt an im–mense release of emotion. The poem I wrote that night may not have had the greatest literary merit, but it did a lot for me and I was inspired to do more. We piloted a writing program for doctors aimed at reducing their risk of burnout and compassion fatigue. This was a great success and I have continued this work ever since. I presented some of my ideas in a keynote address at a big medical conference in the US last year. And I have been to England, Portugal and New Zealand, and all around Australia. It is like some form of cosmic joke that the dark place of reading that poem late one night years ago has taken me on such
a journey.

Dr Hilton Koppe
Northern Rivers, NSW