Mehta Awards Ceremony Honors First Creative Writing Winners

By Ben Boulden

The awards are the result of a $50,000 gift by Drs. Jay and Paulette Mehta and is administrated by the College of Medicine’s Department of Medical Humanities & Bioethics. The award places, recognized works, awardees and prizes are:

Jawahar “Jay” Mehta, M.D., Ph.D., and Paulette Mehta, M.D., M.P.H., have created the Drs. Paulette and Jay Mehta Award in Creative Writing to encourage creative expression at UAMS.

Jawahar “Jay” Mehta, M.D., Ph.D., and Paulette Mehta, M.D., M.P.H., have created the Drs. Paulette and Jay Mehta Award in Creative Writing to encourage creative expression at UAMS.Bryan Clifton

  • First Place: “Sawhorses”, a poem by Timothy Muren ($1000 and a plaque)
  • Second Place: “A Life of Faith: Sister Marietta Fecteau,” a non-fiction story by Susan Van Dusen ($500 and a plaque)
  • Third Place: “Kitchen Communion,” a poem by Sara Shalin ($250 and a plaque)

All employees and students were eligible to compete, and the judges reviewed over 70 submissions without knowledge of the identity of authors.

Paulette Mehta, M.D., M.P.H., is a longtime believer in the power of creative expression. As a physician, she turns to poetry to keep herself emotionally healthy as she treats cancer patients. Her husband, Jawahar “Jay” Mehta, M.D., Ph.D., a distinguished professor of Internal Medicine, Physiology and Biophysics, also believes in the importance of creative outlets, making time in his life for painting, photography and building futuristic furniture.

The belief of the Mehtas in creative expression and a desire to encourage it among their colleagues is the reason the Mehtas made the donation to create the awards in creative writing.

“Health care providers are under incredible stress these days due to burnout, due to difficulties in the profession and especially the COVID-19 pandemic,” Paulette Mehta said shortly after the start of the virtual awards ceremony. “Creative arts can help us express our feelings and connect to others on deep levels. The arts also can bring the science of medicine back to the art of medicine, something that should never again should be separated from each other.”

Paulette Mehta also cited as examples of the university’s cultural renaissance the UAMS literary journal Medicine and Meaning, the short story club at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Provost’s Book Club and the yearly “Art from the Heart” exhibit.

“As a card-carrying biomedical scientist, I know that medicine is deeply dependent on the scientific method for us to provide care to our patients, but science alone is not sufficient,” UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, said. “This ceremony representing the important intersection between science and the humanities is highlighting this deep interdependence between science and humanistic thinking as we provide clinical care, doing research that underpins it and our education mission to create more health care providers across Arkansas.”

Muren and Van Dusen each read excerpts from their respective writings, and Shalin read the entirety of her poem. The works are slated for publication later in Medicine and Meaning.

“The importance of creativity, critical thinking, crafting narratives and artful approaches to health care should not be undervalued,” D. Micah Hester, Ph.D., chair of both the Mehta award committee and the Department of Medical Humanities and Bioethics and a professor of Medical Humanities and Pediatrics, said. “Science makes no difference to the human race if it pays no attention to the human condition. The humanities and the arts are the disciplines in our academic and personal lives that provide the perspective necessary to connect individuals with one another.”