There are a couple of things people didn’t tell me growing up that I went to medical school to learn. As embryos, for example, we had a motor with a tail attached to it that spun and moved organs around our body. It placed our heart on the left and liver on the right. Some people are born with motors that don’t spin properly, and their organs are around the other way (1). Our structural complexity is uncanny. There are windows in our ears, and antiseptic in our tears. Why we are this way is something we’ve been asking ourselves since the thought became available to us. Personally, I hoped that studying medicine would give me some answers—as though knowing the shape of our brain could help me to understand my need for company. But that hasn’t been the case. While science helps us to understand just how physical and chemical we are, it will always fall short of the whole picture. We are far more than bones, muscles and brain tissue and so is our experience of illness. Atlas is a collection of writing that recognises this—our diversity, our determination, and our experience of a body that feels like anything but anatomy and physiology.
Our hope is that Atlas will shift our medical conversations from the rigid and prescriptive to a form that does justice to our complexities. Our first issue contains stories of grief and finding meaning through writing; anxiety and its relationship to place; organ transplants and generosity; the experience of gender diversity in a health system fixated on tick boxes and much more. We would like to say a huge thank you to all of our contributors for sharing their writing with us. We have been honoured by the response and volumes of deeply personal texts that have found their way into our inbox.
Atlas is a medical text about the unphysical; the parts of the human we can’t see or dissect. These parts are often neglected in our medical experiences and we hope that Atlas becomes a space for their revival.
1. Kartagener syndrome, also known as primary ciliary dyskinesia.