fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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June 2011

A Passage in India

Justin Sanders

“It’s cooler this morning,” I said to Seema, as we left the hospital grounds en route to our home visits.

It was a bright and bustling morning in Trivandrum, the capital of India’s southwesternmost state, Kerala. A third-year resident in family medicine, I had come here to work with the staff of an Indian nonprofit devoted to advancing palliative care services across India. Seema was a young, newly qualified junior doctor who had only recently joined the organization. We were traveling with five others–our driver, two nurses and two nursing trainees–into the mountains east of Trivandrum for the day.

“We don’t really speak about the weather like you do,” Seema gently chided. “In the West you spend lots of time talking about the weather.” As I silently ceded her point, she consoled me: “I think you have more variety to your weather. Here it is only hot, very hot, or cold and rainy. Most people carry an umbrella because it’s useful in any of those cases.”

I counted the passing umbrellas as our van carried us into the foothills on our way to Palode, a village where we would hold a small outpatient clinic before making home visits. 

After the » Continue Reading.

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First Visit

Allan Peterkin

He told me
in passing
somewhere in the list
of bad luck and
bad choices
all the things
that had somehow
brought him here

This telling
was so soft
as to be dream-like
she had 
off a ride
at the county fair
on a day he 
was trying to be her dad
Didn’t make it 
was all he said 
then moved on
to the next wreck
(the first divorce)

I didn’t ask
what I wanted to
how old
was it a rollercoaster

one thing 
all the weight

is where
I put my pen down

Where I looked in his face 
and found something
other than pity.

About the poet:

Allan Peterkin is a Toronto doctor and writer. He heads the Health, Arts and Humanities Program at the University of Toronto and is a founding editor of ARS MEDICA: A Journal of Medicine, the Arts and Humanities.

About the poem: 

“The inspiration for the poem came from a newspaper clipping about an accident at a fair where a young girl fell off a ride. I started thinking

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Hospital Librarian

Pam Kress-Dunn

Some people seem surprised to find a library in a hospital. But it’s here, and so am I. Having been a librarian in lots of different libraries–public, academic, archival–I jumped at this job when it opened up. Little did I know what I was getting into.

Like many medical librarians, I work solo. I do have a volunteer who, despite being decades older than me, works tirelessly during the two days a week she’s here. But I’m the one who does the lit searches, tracks down the articles in medical journals and finds the piece of information the doctor requires before the surgery that’s scheduled for noon.

My predecessor told me about his most harrowing moment: A surgeon needed information–stat!–and it was available only from a journal our library didn’t carry. So he placed an interlibrary loan request, marking it “Urgent: Patient Care.” When the article came through on the fax machine, he read it aloud over the phone to the surgeon, who was standing in the OR as a nurse pressed the receiver to his ear.

I’ve had my own anxious

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Little Lady

Samyukta Mullangi

Growing up, I was the one thought to be the most squeamish about medicine–the needles, the knives, the musty smell of alcohol swabs and the rusty stench of blood. Whenever my mother, an ob/gyn, talked on the phone with her patients about menstruation, cramps and bloating, I’d plug my ears and wish for death by embarrassment. Once, standing in line for a routine TB test, I had a friend pull up a chair for me “in case you faint.” 

So my entire family thought it hilarious when I decided to go to medical school. 

“You know that residents practice stitches on each other, don’t you?” my cousin teased. 

“Consider real estate instead,” my grandmother advised.

In deference to her, I actually did go and obtain a real estate license. But I also persevered in the pursuit of medicine. So much about the profession appealed to me: the intellectual challenges; the lifelong learning; the intimacy found only in a doctor’s office. Born into a family of physicians, I’d had a glimpse into their working lives that most people don’t get, and I deeply valued what I saw.

My first hurdle in medical school, of course, was anatomy lab.


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