Group of students.

Editors of Heart Sounds pose at the magazine’s launch. They are, from left, Kate Zha, Sara Xu, Casey Cabrinha, Noah Stanco, Samantha Loria, Tim Felong, Ellen Lutnick and Natalie Tjota. Kelly Coughlin is also an editor.

Students Debut Literary Arts Magazine Heart Sounds

Published April 29, 2019

What had previously been only an idea — a literary arts magazine for the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences — is now a reality.

“You get people from all walks of life coming into medical school. People are happy to have this form of outlet to explore that side of themselves.”
Ellen Lutnick
First-year medical student and co-editor of Heart Sounds

Medical Student’s Idea Comes to Fruition

The first issue of Heart Sounds debuted this month. The editor is Sara Xu, a second-year medical student.

Xu broached the idea to Linda F. Pessar, MD, director of the Center for Medical Humanities and professor emerita of psychiatry, a little more than a year ago.

“I just asked if we had a literary magazine,” Xu explained. “Dr. Pessar said “no we don’t, let’s start one! Would you like to chair it?’”

“I thought it was a wonderful idea,” said Pessar, who indicated that the concept of having a literary magazine for the Jacobs School had been discussed before. “My greatest accomplishment was to say ‘go for it’ and support the enterprise in any way I could.”

Positive Reaction From Students, Faculty


Xu and Pessar got the word out and soon other medical students and faculty offered to help.

One person Xu brought in to help was fellow second-year medical student Natalie Tjota, who shares Xu’s love of writing and literature. They met while taking a Chinese literature class as undergraduates at the University of Rochester.

“I’m amazed at how quickly Sara was able to put this together,” said Tjota, a co-editor of the magazine. “The reaction has been very supportive. Everyone has been excited to contribute to it.”

All submissions were published.

“We paired an editor with each contributor to work through their submission,” said Xu, who was also part of her high school’s literary magazine. “It’s been very positive. We’re all surprised and grateful that people have been reading it and have been enjoying it.”

13 Contributors To First Edition

The finished product is a 40-page glossy magazine filled with stories, poems, photos and a haiku.

“Heart Sounds is really superb. We all should feel proud that we produced a literary arts magazine, and we hope it’s the first of many editions,” Pessar said. “Everybody who participated should take great joy in bringing this to fruition.”

Medical students and faculty were among the 13 contributors to the first edition.

“Some of our submissions deal with medicine, but a lot of them don’t. We encourage people to make submissions that deal with other parts of their lives,” Xu said. “I personally think there’s a lot about medicine that’s not taught in schools. This is getting to see what else people have to say.”

Planning for Next Year’s Edition

It is anticipated that this will be an annual magazine published each spring. There is already a transition in place for the next issue with Ellen Lutnick, a co-editor and first-year student, taking over as editor for the 2020 edition.

Lutnick was one of the editors for UB’s literary magazine NAME as an undergraduate.

“You get people from all walks of life coming into medical school. People are happy to have this form of outlet to explore that side of themselves,” said Lutnick, who is also one of the contributors to the first edition.

In future editions, Pessar hopes to include artwork or narratives from patients and community members talking about their relationship to the Jacobs School and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

“We would like it to be a health sciences campus and community enterprise,” said Pessar, also a magazine contributor.

Magazine Offers Creative Outlet

The editors believe the new enterprise adds to the medical school experience for those taking part, in addition to improving their communication skills to make them better physicians.

“You realize there’s more to medicine than just the notes or the information we get from lectures; there’s the patients,” Tjota said. “So much of medicine is based on communication, so being able to communicate your own emotions is helpful to understand what your patients are trying to tell you.”

“It’s also an exploration of your own human empathy, of trying to figure out your own feelings in order to communicate them to someone else,” Lutnick said. “I’m a firm believer that unless you’re using both halves of your brain, neither of them works right.”

Kicked Off With Reception at Jacobs School

Student, Linda Pessar and Dean Michael Cain.

Michael E. Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, offers his congratulations to Sara Xu, left, and Linda F. Pessar, MD, for their efforts in bringing Heart Sounds to fruition.

The other co-editors are also Jacobs School medical students. They are:

  • Casey Cabrinha (second year)
  • Kelly Coughlin (third year)
  • Tim Felong (second year)
  • Samantha Loria (second year)
  • Noah Stanco (first year)
  • Kate Zha (first year)

Other contributors are:

A reception to celebrate the creation of the magazine took place April 15 in the atrium at the Jacobs School building.