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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May 2014

No Place Like Home(less)

Josephine Ensign

Recently I had dinner with a friend of mine who, decades ago, had sat on my doctoral dissertation committee. At one point we touched on my dissertation, which covered the health issues of Baltimore’s homeless teens.

“You always had an uncanny connection with homeless kids,” my friend said. “You really understood them.”

I gazed out the window, seeing the homeless people with their shopping carts in the park across the street.

Then I said, “That’s probably because I was homeless myself.”

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Lois Goglia

About the artist: 

Lois Goglia uses radiographic imagery, such as animal and human X-rays, mammograms, ultrasounds and DNA sequencing gels, along with traditional art supplies to investigate the relationship between science and art, specifically photography. She has created multiple series that explore the continuum from medical imagery to photography. Her award-winning work has been exhibited in commercial galleries and museums and can be seen at her website,

About the artwork:

“Sword explores the relationship between the natural world and the humans and animals that inhabit it. The ‘sword’ highlights the tension between them. The colors were inspired by the colors of the leaves in autumn, when this work was created. After assembling a collage of X-ray fragments, I photographed it on a light box and added color digitally.”

Visuals editor:

Justin Sanders

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Collateral Damage

Brenda Scearcy

Dr. Robert’s office felt right to me, with a musical birdsong soundtrack, soft lighting and fresh green tea, and I had my best friend in tow: piece of cake. In this serene atmosphere, I was sure that I’d find out what to do next to finish treating my endometrial cancer.

It’s probably gone now, since my hysterectomy two weeks back, I thought. But let’s play it safe; he’s the gynecological-cancer guru.

Like a general gearing up for combat, Dr. Robert said, “We can beat this. We’ll do a second surgery to remove lymph nodes and omentum–robotically, of course, so your recovery time will be quick. Down the road we’ll definitely do radiation and chemo, and your odds of recurrence will go way down.”

That tone. So assured…

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long story - blum 2

Long Story


Alan Blum

About the artist: 

Alan Blum is a Professor and Gerald Leon Wallace MD Endowed Chair in Family Medicine at the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Tuscaloosa. A self-taught artist, he has published three books of his sketches and stories of patients, and his artworks have appeared in more than a dozen medical journals and textbooks. He is a frequent guest speaker at medical schools in courses in the humanities.

About the artwork:

Aw it’s a long story with me. Spent all my money on my wife when she died. 2 years cancer. Wasn’t able to do anything. Wasn’t able to save her. Spent all my money. All the money I had I spent on her.” Alan Blum recalls: “I vividly remember him, sitting on the edge of the bed at the hospital (when patients could stay there for weeks on end when they couldn’t be sent home alone). He was blind, and he listened faithfully to the radio all day long waiting to hear his name so he could call in and win the jackpot.”

Visuals editor:

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The Pros and Cons of Living with a Terminal Illness

Ellen Diamond

Before I retired in 2000, I worked in a state agency as a peer counselor, or more formally, an employee assistance program (EAP) coordinator. The “coordinator” part was there because my job description wasn’t actually to do counseling; it was to assess the problem and refer the client for help.

But of course both of those processes involved counseling. We just couldn’t call it that.

In 1986, shortly after I’d begun the job, I was separately visited by two employees with HIV/AIDS. Treatments such as the antiviral drugs used so successfully today were nearly a decade away, and a diagnosis of HIV meant almost certain death. These clients were understandably upset and frightened, but they each made it clear to me that they were still feeling pretty good, though with ups and downs.

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Daniel Becker

Once the tube is out it takes her a minute to turn blue and relax. Another minute to lose her pulse. I learned as a student to feel the difference between the pulse in my fingers and the pulse at the patient’s wrist. Or thought I learned. When you listen for a heart to stop you start to hear heart sounds that might not be there. Like waking up at night thinking you heard something then listening to the dark to be sure, not quite convinced either way. Weak sounds, S1 and S2, valves closing. Slow and slower, regular then irregular, then almost nothing…then who knows? The monitor is off in her room but on at the nursing station. One screen shows every heart in the unit. I don’t want to sign the consult note until the line stays flat. Erratic electrical activity went on for a few minutes is an understatement. She’d be gone for most of the screen then come back for a complex or two then go away again.

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Famino - Baudino



Frank Baudino

About the artist: 

Frank Baudino has worked for more than three decades in family medicine, both as a primary-care clinician and as a teacher. “I am an avid believer in volunteerism, and the volunteer experience which affected me most profoundly was my six-month mission in Sudan with Doctors Without Borders. Photography is another of my passions, and I strive to make images that describe the human condition with compassion.” You can see more of his images at

About the artwork:

“Following twenty years of civil war, many of the Sudanese in the south were starving. The children were hardest hit. I was in charge of a therapeutic feeding center for children, where I encountered this mother and child as they waited patiently to be screened. Famine bears witness to the conditions of deprivation under which many of the world’s people live; it illustrates the suffering of a mother and her child in an environment that most of us could not imagine, and of which many are unaware.”

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