First Abaton Selzer Award for Writing presented

October 25, 2010 —

Des Moines University’s literary journal combines medicine, art

Dr. Kendall Reed, dean of DMU's COM, Award wWinner Rachel Hammer & Abaton Faculty Advisor Dr. Gary Hoff.

Dr. Kendall Reed, dean of DMU's COM, Award Winner Rachel Hammer & Abaton Faculty Advisor Dr. Gary Hoff.

Rachel Hammer, a second-year student at Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minnesota, won the inaugural Selzer Prize for Writing in this year’s Abaton, Des Moines University’s literary journal.

Physician-writer Dr. Richard Selzer has inspired many to marry medicine and writing. Dr. Selzer has been writing for fifty years and helped pioneer the notion that physicians could also be artists. In honor of his work, Abaton will feature a Selzer winner each year.

“Dr. Selzer is a physician who not only dared to see his world and his patients in all of their human beauty and frailty, but to put into writing the spectrum of thoughts and emotions that came from his experiences in medicine,” said Rick Rapp, D.O. 2012 student and this year’s Abaton editor. “His work has inspired thousands of physicians and medical students over the past 40 years. Abaton also works to examine the humanity and soul of medicine and to hopefully inspire its readers to examine their own experience of the art of medicine. We felt it only appropriate to honor Dr. Selzer with a literary award that would also serve to encourage medical students to write and write well.”

Hammer’s piece, “Imposter or Not,” was chosen by a five-member editorial board, Abaton’s faculty advisor, last year’s editor and Dr. Selzer.

“I am slowly discovering that writing is not just something I love to do, it is a fundamental aspect of who I am. It’s part of my processing machinery. When I was a little girl, for fun, I wrote stories about people, animals, inanimate objects, and gave them to people as presents,” said Hammer who calls Portland, OR and Seattle, WA hometowns. “I keep note cards in my pockets at all times, on the wards, on road trips, especially on long runs just in case that brilliant idea happens to ambush me while I’m on the trail. I have often felt that I must maintain my hobby on the sly. So to think that there is ‘merit’ for what I am possessed to do, often beyond my control, and to be included in a journal among others who seem to share my syndrome, I feel quite found and encouraged to continue.”

Now in its fourth year, the annual Abaton journal is very popular and the public is invited to submit work. Overseen by DMU students and staff in the medical humanities department, the journal is made up entirely of submitted art, photography, prose, poetry, essays and more. Students, staff and alumni are, of course, invited to submit to the Abaton but a direct DMU-connection is by no means required.

To browse the journal, visit www.dmu.edu/abaton.

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Hammer graduated from Sunset High School in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle Pacific University. Her maiden name is Ellis and she is the daughter of Paul & Andrea Ellis, of Portland, OR. Her husband, Karl-Peter Hammer is from Ballard, WA. The Hammers currently live in Rochester.

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Des Moines University (DMU) is the only private medical school in Iowa, offering graduate-level, professional degree programs in osteopathic medicine, podiatric medicine, physical therapy, physician assistant studies, biomedical sciences, anatomy, health care administration and public health. Founded in 1898, the institution offers superior academics in a collaborative environment. DMU students' pass rate on national examinations and board certifications is consistently higher than the national average and the rates at similar institutions.


Courtney Tompkins has been part of the DMU marketing team since Nov. 2005 and loves promoting a school she believes in so thoroughly. Proud daughter and patient of DMU alumni, Courtney knows, first-hand, that Des Moines University is doing a world of good. A fan of all outdoor festivals, fruity drinks and nearly all edibles, she has a hard time narrowing down her list of favorite places to go and things to do but lists the Iowa State Fair as an all-time fave. She loves her 8-minute commute to DMU from Urbandale, a suburb of Des Moines. She and husband Tyler are owned by three large dogs, Tonka, Tucker and Tank.