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 2014

Continuing Education

H. Lee Kagan

The nasogastric tube was killing me. It had been in place for twelve hours now, threading its way up my nose and down my throat, past my esophagus, into my stomach. Try as I might, I couldn’t swallow away the nasty lump stuck to the back of my throat. And every time I tried, it hurt.

Decades before, as a physician-in-training in upstate New York, I’d put in more nasogastric (NG) tubes than I could remember. At the time, I hadn’t regarded NGs as a big deal. But now I was having my first personal experience with this vile little snake, and it sucked–in every sense of the word.

Two days before, I had come down with a viral gastroenteritis, or stomach flu as it’s often called. Twenty-four hours into my illness, the miserable feeling that some dead critter lay rotting inside me still hadn’t eased.

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Emerging Jameson


Elizabeth Jameson

About the artist: 

Elizabeth Jameson is an artist who has progressive multiple sclerosis. Using solarplate etching, she creates art with images of her brain scans. Her passion lies in creating art that celebrates the acceptance of illness and disability as a part of being human. More work is available for viewing at

About the artwork:

Emerging shows the interior of my brain, reflecting the colors of the rising sun. The bright white line of the skull acts as the divide between mankind and the universe beyond. Emerging, for me, is an inspirational image that reminds me to look beyond my imperfect brain and to ponder the infinite beauty of the early morning sky.”

Visuals editor:

Justin Sanders

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Q & A

Kyle Bernard

The interview had lasted fifteen minutes so far, and we’d made minimal progress. I was a medical student doing a rotation at a physical medicine and rehabilitation clinic back in my home state, Wisconsin. It was the end of the day; to save time, the senior resident, Paul, had joined me in the exam room so that we could hear Leora’s medical history together.

A year earlier, Leora, in her mid-fifties, had suffered a stroke. After a few weeks in the acute-rehabilitation hospital, she’d been discharged, and she and her husband, Ellis, had been lost to follow-up. Now they were back, hoping to resume Leora’s care.

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Ellen Cole

Lightheaded, as I so often am
when leukemia fevers sweep over me,
I fail to notice when I begin to rise,
feet bidding the floor goodbye,

I say, Brian, but you,
your eyes shut,    
Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata
whispering in your earphones,

do not see me wink out the window
like lamp light, the lawn glittered
with glow-worms, echoed above
by the stern slow music of stars.

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Kahn Image 5

In Plain Sight #2


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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The Arm

David G. Thoele

I was on the cusp of my first year in medical school, and time was running out. Classes started in two weeks. I needed a place to live–ideally someplace cheap, not too far from school.

There was an opening at Phi Chi medical fraternity, a large brick house of faded elegance located less than a block from my classes at the University of Minnesota. At $75 a month for a tiny room in the co-ed fraternity, it fit my budget. When I learned about the “beer machine,” an old Coke machine that dispensed beer at 15 cents a bottle (a bargain in 1979), it felt like my kind of place. I signed the lease.

But throughout the entire discussion with my prospective frat brothers and sisters about the charms and quirks of Phi Chi, no one mentioned The Arm.

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