Patients provide poetic inspiration

By College Staff writer

13 November 2020

Category: College and members


College Fellow is passionate about making connections with the young people he cares for, so much so his latest collection of poetry is dedicated to them.

was inspired by the patients Glenn works with at the Horowhenua Health Service, children and teenagers aged 10 鈥 24 who need a helping hand along the path of life.

鈥淚 find my patients and their stories amazing and needed to capture that in some way through my writing,鈥 says Glenn.

鈥淏ecause the relationship I have with them isn鈥檛 just one way - I am deeply grateful for what they have done in showing me what being a GP is all about.鈥

Glenn鈥檚 journey to becoming the doctor he is today is an interesting one because his first love wasn鈥檛 medicine, it was the English language.

Growing up as a Seventh Day Adventist in South Auckland, he always intended to become a minister.

鈥淭hat didn鈥檛 work out when they decided I wasn鈥檛 really ministerial material, so I left and did an English degree,鈥 he laughs.聽

鈥淚 fell in love with language from an early age, from my experiences at church, from the time spent on site with my builder dad and his mates, listening to their jokes and banter, and from the playgrounds and streets of South Auckland where I was surrounded by lots of Pasifika and

M膩ori kids who often used English in new and funny ways.

鈥淧oetry and language was all around me.鈥

After completing his English degree, Glenn began to wonder what was next.

鈥淚 liked studying and learning and I thought 鈥榳ell, you need to know a lot to become a doctor鈥, so I decided to do my medical training at Auckland Medical School,鈥 he says. 鈥淏ut I found being a doctor uninspiring - the realities of the 15-minute appointment model bent me out of shape and led to deep unhappiness.

鈥淏ut I hadn鈥檛 found my passion or the reason I became a doctor, until I came to the Horowhenua Youth Health Service.鈥

He credits the service, which he helped establish in 2011, and his patients, for giving him the impetus to break out of the 鈥榥orm鈥 and create a new way of connecting.

鈥淚 am both a doctor and youth worker,鈥 he explains. 鈥淲hich means I can give my patients longer consultations, and really explore what is needed to untangle them from the knots they find themselves in.

Dr Glen Colquhoun

鈥淭hat might be a referral to another service, or it might just be that they need someone to walk beside them, to be a handrail for a while. The connections I have with my patients go pretty deep and I do a lot of work through text and email, just checking in with people, making sure they are ok, giving them the opportunity to ask for help, if they need it.鈥

He says that this age group go through some enormous transitions, physiologically, mentally and emotionally.

鈥淭here鈥檚 a lot of medicine to be done in all that, but we go a bit deeper than your average GP clinic. Our philosophy is that we are treating the soil so the tree can grow, not the tree itself,鈥 says Glenn. 鈥淚t鈥檚 social work overlapping with medicine, really.鈥

is Glenn鈥檚 latest of several publications, which include poetry, children鈥檚 stories and anthologies. His success in his writing career include receiving the Prize in Modern Letters, being awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Harvard to study medical humanities and representing 麻豆视频入口聽 on the Commonwealth Poets United poetry project celebrating the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.

He says his poems are not just observations, or thoughts, or narratives, but also part of what he does as a doctor.

鈥淭he poems in 鈥楲etters to Young People鈥 let them know that they matter to someone, that the story they have to tell is an important one,鈥 he explains. 鈥淚t tells them that someone is thinking of them, that they matter.

鈥淚t might sound thin in medical terms but the simple act of being cared for and about, particularly when your mind hurts, can make all the difference in the world.鈥

His favourite poem in the collection is called 鈥極ne Minute and 27 seconds鈥, inspired by a young lady who is dealing with several things in her life at the moment.

鈥淲hen Apollo 13 reentered the earth鈥檚 atmosphere, they didn鈥檛 know if it was going to burn up or not,鈥 he says. 鈥淭here was a period of radio silence where everyone held their breath to hear the astronaut鈥檚 voices saying they were ok, that they had survived. That radio silence lasted one minute and 27 seconds longer than they were expecting.

鈥淭he poem is saying that we are holding our breath for this young woman, that we are waiting for her voice to tell us that she is ok, that she has got through the challenges she is facing.鈥

鈥楲etters to Young People鈥 is published by OldKing Press and available through