Communicating My Passion for Improvement with Haiku

Dec 8, 2016 | Humanizing Medicine | 0 comments

The day after I participated in the Second Wingspread Summit on Preventing Physician Burnout in Jacksonville Florida, I was considering the high points of the event: connecting with others who are committed to understanding and addressing the problem, learning about courageous organizations that are testing ways to fix the root causes, hearing recently published evidence on what works.

As I drove my rental car the 140 miles to Orlando for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Annual Forum, I thought about feedback that might help make the next summit that much more spectacular.

My only regret, I thought as I contemplated the flat, straight freeway down eastern coast of the Sunshine State, was that we didn’t have an opportunity for everyone to introduce themselves. Well, I thought, in a group of 3 dozen people, a minute or two each eats up a good chunk of time.

From there, I wondered what I would say if I were asked to introduce myself and explain my passion for addressing burnout—why the topic is so important to me—in as few words as possible.


I’d say my name, that I left clinical practice, only later to learn the cause was burnout and that the stories of other physicians motivate me to do my bit to catalyze change.

Then I considered: What if I had to describe my passion in a haiku? Doing so would require that I strip down my explanation to its core to fit within the poetic form of three lines with a 5-7-5 syllable structure.

Then I thought, What if everyone in the room simply said his or her name and recited a simple haiku that spoke to their passion for the topic?

Just as I saw my exit up ahead, a poem emerged fully formed in my head. I voice-activated the recorder on my phone and captured it.

My burnout story
Unleashed a torrent of others
Now I fight for them.


I don’t know that I’ll ever use my haiku in an introduction, but it was an interesting experience in focusing on passion.

More to come in future posts on some really interesting insights from the Summit and the IHI Forum…

Questions to Consider:

  • Do you have a short explanation for why addressing burnout (or any other issue that plagues our health care system) is important to you? Are you motivated by a particular person or experience? 
  • Can you state it in a haiku? 
  • Are you willing to share it?

Photo: Fotolia

[ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ]

Diane W. Shannon

MD, MPH, ACC

Diane Shannon is an award-winning writer, author, and coach. Since leaving practice as a primary care physician due to burnout, she has worked to support physicians in achieving their personal and professional goals and to highlight the changes needed to reduce burnout, improve career satisfaction, and protect the bidirectional healing power of the patient-physician relationship.

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