The Seven Doctors Project: Session Six

It is my pleasure to welcome back longtime members of the Seven Doctors Project—and to greet and welcome new participants, as we chirp back and forth via e-mail and they tell me a little about their writing interests and goals. The fact that mid-career physicians and many others, including administrators and scientists and researchers, are drawn to practice creative writing and immerse themselves in a two-month intensive writing workshop, continues to intrigue me.

The Seven Doctors Project, which debuted in spring 2008, is the basis of my PhD thesis. Over 20 members of the UNMC community, most of them physicians, are 7DP alumni. Three of them (so far) have had works accepted for publication. Virtually all of them report the project gave them a boost. They gained more energy at home and at work, many of them say. It was fun to be an apprentice again…and fulfilling to be part of a supportive and serious-minded community of readers and writers.

For a couple participants, the project served as a kind of “intervention,” allowing them the needed opportunity to consider, in their writing and in their interactions with instructors and project participants, and even work through challenging issues they face on and off the job.

The sixth session of the project begins on February 2nd. Our teaching cohort, three fellow area writers and creative writing instructors and two UNMC physicians, Lydia Kang and Bud Shaw, who recently had works accepted for publication, met last week to discuss the project. We are eager to get started!

Spurred mostly by word of mouth, through the newly formed Humanities Council and elsewhere, over a dozen participants (so far) have signed up. We aim to introduce—or reintroduce, after partial or extended hiatus—participants to writing and reading poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction. Among other outcomes, the 7DP proves there is a sincere yearning for creative expression among physicians and others.

When I’m asked why I do the project—and I can be pretty bold—I say, “It’s simple; we are giving our participants their imaginations back.” While I admire and depend on the technical skill of physicians, not to mention their dedication to working long hours to help their patients and sometimes save their lives, I also realize, now more than ever, the importance of imaginative play.

Meeting each of our participants where he or she is and leading them forward is our goal. Along the way, some of them begin to aim to join a larger community, published writers. I am hopeful that the 7DP provides for all of our participants a grounding on aesthetic principles and some training in the craft of writing.

In addition to the genuine thrill of discovering and inventing, once again, poems and stories that surprise and move us!

Steve Langan is the author of three collections of poems, Freezing, Notes on Exile and Other Poems, and Meet Me at the Happy Bar. He holds an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he received the James Michener Fellowship, and he teaches in the University of Nebraska MFA in Writing program. Contact Langan at 402.659.6343 and

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