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Fazili Wins First Prize in Alpha Omega Alpha Nationwide Poetry Contest

Irtiqa Fazili took home first prize in Alpha Omega Alpha’s nationwide poetry contest for her poem, “Dissection Manual.”

First-year medical student Irtiqa Fazili won first prize in Alpha Omega Alpha’s (AOA) nationwide Pharos poetry award contest for her poem, “Dissection Manual,” a tribute to her medical cadaver. Alpha Omega Alpha, a national medical honor society, will publish her work in the summer edition of their literary journal, The Pharos. Across the country, 142 medical students submitted their work for consideration.

Fazili, a Nashville native and the oldest of four siblings, began writing poetry and other literature eight years ago.

“I’m incredibly honored and excited to win AOA’s poetry competition this year,” she said. “My poem ‘Dissection Manual’ is inspired by anatomy lab and the shared M1 experience of learning the human body so deeply — an experience which is intrinsically tied to both life and death, as we spend countless hours with the cadavers. Medicine is incredibly poetic; I hope to keep writing about it and share it with more and more people over the years.”

Susan Brewer, MD, FACP, associate dean of Student Affairs and Admissions for the College of Medicine, said, “Irtiqa’s work is a beautiful and moving tribute to one of her first teachers, her cadaver. She has captured the shock of seeing one’s cadaver for the first time, the inner journey each student walks, and the surprise of being so profoundly touched by the hand, the limb, the heart. We are proud that Irtiqa’s work has garnered the recognition it so deserves.”


Dissection Manual by Irtiqa Fazili

 When you start, bright-eyed, at

first whiff of formaldehyde – it’s

hard to recognize yourself in the

dead. They bend the light differently.

Your pulse is a panther, painted


in twilight and violet as it sleeps

in the hollow of your throat

and jumps at the flick of your wrist.

Her pulse is faded like a memory,

color of fog above the canopy.


 But you make her acquaintance.

You trace the lines on her palms

and the nerves beneath them,

amateur fortune teller

reaching out for a greeting,

inching toward an introduction.


Her heart perches in the cage of

her ribs, memory of a melody,

and you remember your own

nested in your chest. You too

are only a handful of heartbeats,

made of veins and clay and haste,

numbered exhales and sinewy folktales.


To you, who gifted us with seeds

to plant flowers in our minds –

we have not forgotten to water them.

We will tend gardens and

dedicate forests in your memory.

Thank you.