- College of Medicine
UCF medical student Aryan Sarparast is the runner-up for this year’s Richard Selzer Prize for literary writing in medicine for his essay on “Imposter Syndrome” as a physician-in-training. He also received honorable mention for the award for “Dead on Arrival,” about witnessing the death of a 20-year-old man in the emergency ward where Sarparast was working as a scribe.
Both pieces were published in Abaton, a literary journal from the University of Des Moines. The national Selzer Award, designed to recognize and encourage humanity in medicine, is named after the distinguished Yale University professor, surgeon and writer whose surgical memoirs, short stories, novels and essays on people suffering from disease have influenced doctors and writers alike.
Sarparast, who received his undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of Oregon, has been writing since grade school. “I have always enjoyed writing as a means of self-expression in the hopes that someone else feels the same way,” he said. He is part of a small writing group and as a 2014 New Year’s resolution, each writer vowed to get published during the calendar year. All succeeded – although Sarparast laughed that he had almost given up on the resolution because he didn’t hear about the Selzer prize until November. At UCF, he is on the executive board of the student Arts In Medicine (AIM) organization and is also co-editor of the Script, an AIM literary and arts magazine that published its first edition this year.
In “Syndrome of an Imposter,” Sarparast writes of worrying that others – classmates, faculty, patients – will uncover him as an impostor who doesn’t deserve to be in medical school. He tells the story of working at his preceptor’s clinic and asking a patient if he can take the man’s blood pressure and being surprised at the patient’s kindness – and patience. That kindness, he writes, helped him alter his feelings:
“I am no imposter.
I can feel that comforting weight of a white coat on my shoulders.
I can feel that responsibility. And the Hippocratic Oath reminds me
that I’m no hypocrite at all.
He told me: “Of course you can, thank you for helping me, doctor.”
Yes, one day I will be. Sometimes it’s so easy to forget whom exactly we’re
doing this for.”
Sarparast recited the essay at the 2013 Arts in Medicine holiday concert at the College of Medicine, a performance that drew cheers, especially from students.
He says he hopes to specialize in psychiatry after graduating from medical school, noting that many psychiatrists including Sigmund Freud were writers. “What better way to practice medicine,” he said, “than to hear the stories of your patients and to help them progress their stories over a period of time?”