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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March 2014

Sharing Secrets

Maria Gervits

“I feel bad…” Amy whispered, then paused.

I’m a family-medicine resident, and I was doing my gynecology rotation, which involved spending a few days at a Planned Parenthood facility. This was my first day. I’d been assigned a patient to shadow: a young woman named Amy, who was here to have a first-trimester abortion.

I’m a fan of Planned Parenthood’s work providing high-quality, affordable contraceptive and gynecological care. In college, when I lost my health insurance, I’d gone to Planned Parenthood for birth control. Now, as a doctor in training, I was curious to see how the clinic worked from the inside.

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Dilaudid-Land Davis

Dilaudid Land


Cortney Davis

About the artist: 

Cortney Davis, a nurse practitioner, is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Leopold’s Maneuvers, winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. Her most recent nonfiction publication is The Heart’s Truth: Essays on the the Art of Nursing. An illness narrative in words and images, entitled Twenty-Six Days: When the Nurse Became a Patient, is forthcoming in Spring 2015 from Kent State University Press. On the lighter side, she enjoys serving as poetry editor of Alimentum: The Literature of Food. Her website is

About the artwork:

“In June 2013 I was admitted for day surgery, a surgery in which everything went wrong. After a series of complications, I was a patient for twenty-six days. When I received IV hydromorphone (Dilaudid) for pain, I entered an odd land that was both comforting and terrifying. Pain disappeared; I was adrift on a calm sea. But along with relief came bizarre and frightening dreams and thoughts, including the dark, roiling

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Bonding Time

Nelly Schottel

As an intern in the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU), I am one of several doctors who rarely see or touch the tiny patients we treat. We sit in a back room off a distant hallway, far removed from the babies, reviewing lab results and blood gases on the computer. Much of the time I feel like the Wizard of Oz, controlling a marvelous machine from behind a curtain.

The only uninterrupted time I have with my patients comes at 5:30 am, during pre-rounds, when I hurriedly examine my ten small, complex charges. This is the most rushed part of the day, but these are also the rare moments that I actually spend with a patient.

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Voices Seldom Heard 1 - Kahn

In Plain Sight #1

Peter Kahn

About the artist: 

Peter Kahn is a second year medical student at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He is interested in how stories are told by physicians and patients alike.

About the artwork:

“I took this photo as part of a series of portraits while doing clinical rotations in the Bronx, NY, with the intention of allowing patients to tell their stories in a way that they might not otherwise share with a healthcare provider. I wanted others in the medical community to get a sense of who these patients are when they are outside of the clinic or the ER, places where patients are viewed as sick or ‘needy.’ In these photographs, taken on these individuals’ own turf, our ‘patients’ can be themselves and tell their own stories through photographs. I collaborated with Daniel Akselrad on this series, in which we also gave those in our photographs a disposable camera, so they could capture their stories outside of our time together.”

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(Not So) Golden Years

Madge Kaplan

When I read news articles about caring for elderly parents at a distance, I sometimes shake my head. There’s a tendency to put the best spin on the experience: as long as you contact the right people, get the right information and treat the ups and downs as just part of life’s challenges, you’ll be fine. You can do this!

I find myself wondering when the author last talked to a caregiver at her wits’ end–emotions and finances drained, logistics spiraling out of control.

I was a long-distance caregiver for twelve years. I believe it’s best to resist a formulaic approach in favor of one informed by the details–and always, always, humbled by the truth.

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