About the Michael E. DeBakey Medical Student Poetry Awards

The annual Michael E. DeBakey Medical Student Poetry Awards honors the legendary, preeminent cardiovascular surgeon, pioneering medical scientist, gifted medical educator, prolific author and scholar and passionate advocate of optimal healthcare throughout the world. Dr. Michael E. DeBakey advocated a role for the humanities in medical education and in the development of a full, enriching intellectual life.

To be eligible to participate in this contest, the following criteria must be met: 

  • Entrant must be a medical student currently pursuing a medical doctor (M.D.) degree at an accredited United States medical school.
  • Original poems must be written in English (no translations from other languages), on a medical topic, no more than 50 lines.
  • Submitted poem must never have been published (that is, sold to the public or transferred to another entity for sale to the public), must not be under consideration for publication and must never have been awarded recognition in another writing contest.*
  • Each medical student may submit only one poem.

* NOTE: Following submission, please do not submit the poem for public display or publication until after the award winners have been announced. Publication of your poem may result in disqualification from the award.

Submission Requirements

Your submission must be mailed and emailed with the following components:

  • One cover page that includes your name, current mailing address, email address and phone number.
  • One photocopy of a current student I.D. card documenting medical school enrollment.
  • Four hard (print) copies on high-quality (e.g., bond) paper. Do not staple any of the pages.
  • Font size must be at least 10 points.
  • Limited to two, 8.5 x 11 inch pages and the aforementioned 50 lines.
  • Paragraphs should be single-spaced, and one line should be left between stanzas.
  • Put your name in the upper right header of all pages (last name followed by first name, separated by a comma). If two pages in length, please add page numbers after your name.
  • In addition, please email your cover sheet, student I.D. card photocopy, and electronic version of your poem (in Microsoft Word format) to Christine Cummings (Christine.Cummings@bcm.edu).

* NOTE: If a medical school student ID is not available, either a letter in good standing from the medical school, a current class or clinical rotation, or a tuition bill or statement dated for the current 2019-2020 school year is acceptable.

Cash Prizes

A distinguished panel of qualified judges will assess the poems. The first-prize poem will become the property of the Michael E. DeBakey Medical Student Poetry Awards program and will be submitted to a major medical periodical for consideration for publication. If it is accepted for publication, the publisher will own copyright. Recognition and cash awards of the following amounts will be awarded to the three poems receiving the highest scores from the panel of judges:

  • $1,000 for first prize
  • $500 for second prize
  • $250 for third prize

2019 Winners

The 2019 winners are:

  • First place cash prize of $1,000: “To Make a Living,” by Michelle Tong, Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai
  • Second place cash prize of $500: “unnamed on ward E,” by Nikita Raman, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
  • Third place cash prize of $250: “Encounters,” by Matt Perry, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University

See list of past winners.