Students Launch UConn Health Literary Magazine

Second-year medical student Jason Bitterman contributed his comic strip “Student Doctor B.A.” to the inaugural issue of “Anastomoses.”

Second-year medical student Jason Bitterman contributed his comic strip Student Doctor B.A. to the inaugural issue of Anastomoses.”

A new creative outlet is now available to students and faculty at UConn Health who wish to express themselves by writing.

The online literary magazine “Anastomoses” is now live at www.anastomoseslitmag.com.

Yoyo Zhang and Tina Toutoungi, both third-year students at the UConn School of Medicine, came up with the idea while on a walk last fall.

“We were processing some of what we had been going through in our rotations and that’s when we said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Toutoungi says.

Syas Zhang, “We were struggling with being in clinic, not being used to the clinical setting, and dealing with a lot of emotions, and really not having an outlet for it. We both turn to journaling and literature, it’s like a solace for us. And we thought, if we feel this way, maybe other third-years feel this way too, because it’s a difficult time. And maybe faculty actually feel this way, dealing with patients being sick, and stress at the work place.”

It didn’t take long to assemble an editorial board, which consists of the two founding students, who serve as chief co-editors, plus medical students Alex Hennessey, Chris Del Prete, Nikki Rubin, and Shirin Karimi, and dental students Dana Buglione and Vladimir Nazarov. Dr. Peter Deckers, dean emeritus of the UConn School of Medicine, and Dr. Hugh Blumenfeld, assistant professor of family medicine, are the faculty advisers.

Back, from left: Vladimir Nazarov, Alex Hennessy, Dana Buglione, and Dr. Hugh Blumenfeld, along with (front, from left) Yoyo Zhang, Shirin Karimi, and Tina Toutoungi, are on the editorial board of Anastomoses, the online literary magazine launched recently at UConn Health. (Courtesy of Yoyo Zhang)

Back, from left: Vladimir Nazarov, Alex Hennessy, Dana Buglione, and Dr. Hugh Blumenfeld, along with (front, from left) Yoyo Zhang, Shirin Karimi, and Tina Toutoungi, are on the editorial board of Anastomoses, the online literary magazine launched recently at UConn Health. (Photo provided by Yoyo Zhang)

“The board is amazing – really creative people who’ve done really cool things prior to coming to medical and dental school, and who are really talented,” Toutoungi says. “We formed the board and then from there we group emailed to faculty and students, and used word of mouth, and some peer pressure, but there were a lot of folks who came out of the woodwork and contributed. Faculty too, which was really surprising and welcomed.”

Adds Zhang, “In our professional fields, I think it’s rare that we pause and take time to reflect.”

Launched earlier this month, Anastomoses features nearly 30 submissions of writing, poetry, and imagery – including photos, a sketch, and even a comic strip.

Then there’s the “Ask DH” page.

Dr. Dan Henry is sort of an institution at our school, and we wanted to create something of an ‘Ask Alice’ advice column for students,” Zhang says. “It was always intended as a humorous section and we think it’s perfect how DH answers all of the not-so-serious questions with 100 percent earnestness, in true DH fashion.”

The co-editors-in-chief share a passion for writing and reading, and say some of their favorite authors are physicians.

“In med school I found all these physician authors who were really inspiring, which made me realize I could do both,” says Zhang, who studied both English and pre-med as an undergraduate at Boston College. “As med school got tougher and tougher, journaling and reading became an outlet.”

Toutoungi, who majored in psychology at Colgate, describes herself as “a private journaler.” She likens journaling to sitting down and talking to a friend, “but you’ve just written it down on paper. And as you write, you process through it too. There’s a healing involved in that. And you can revisit some of those emotions.”

As for the project’s name, it’s based on the word “anastomosis,” which refers to the surgical connection of two structures in a branching system, generally blood vessels.

“It’s a place we can all come together and join all of our voices, and it will be a collective forum,” Zhang says.

Submissions are welcome via uchc.litmag@gmail.com.


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