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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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August 2014

Seeing the Light

Sarah Houssayni

Many healers, teachers and parents have them.  

At one point, I did, too. I had delusions. I thought I was a hero, a rescuer clad in a shiny white coat and wielding the sword of clinical wisdom. 


I look back on those days with nostalgia and regret. I wish they’d lasted a little longer–my belief in my own medical grandeur and invincibility. 


My most memorable patient changed that for me.

I remember how her mother, Gigi, first brought Serenity to see me when she was a newborn. Gigi was fifteen; I was annoyed. Too much work for a pediatrician to make sure all the education gets through–after all, she was still a pediatric patient herself. 


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Rewriting the Script

Adam B. Weiner



The word came unbidden into my head. 


Oh, no. Here I was, only a few questions into Mr. Marlow’s medical history, and the feeling had begun already.


I’d often experienced this when I was a pre-med student, spending so much time on labs and textbooks instead of with patients. When I’d begun my first year as a medical student, I’d hoped to leave all that behind. Medical school felt energizing: I was ready to see real patients and start helping them!


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Alone - Hourigan



Frank Burnside (photo); Terry Hourigan (text)

Editor’s Note: We received this submission last week, as we were still coming to terms with the news of Robin Williams’ suicide. His death and our collective loss gave some urgency to publishing this photo and essay, which touch upon that which we see–and that which is hidden–when we look at one another.

About the artist: 

“Frank Burnside is a photographer and a later-life friend who was downing milk and cookies in nursery school when I was a full-blown adult in first grade,” writes Terry Hourigan. “Through the years he has created a library of nature still lifes. I get to see them often and choose one from time to time, keeping it on file so that it may someday serve to express an inexplicable emotion in a story. The ferns immediately struck me as a metaphor for being close but not truly seen; for being a chameleon–camouflaged from both friend and foe.”

About the artwork:

“How many

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The Well-Fed Physician

Randy Rockney

When I was in medical residency, more than thirty years ago, I ran with a pack of fellow residents, all guys who were fit to varying degrees. Once, on an outing, we discussed the–hopefully–hypothetical question: “If the need arose, which one of us would we eat first?”

“Randy!” my friends gleefully concluded.

“His meat would be the most marbled,” one added.

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bless our children - kasman

Bless Our Children


Deborah Kasman

About the artist: 

Deborah Kasman is a family physician and mother of two teens. A practicing clinician and academic bioethicist, she works as a bioethics director for Kaiser Permanente in southern California. “Two-and-a-half years ago, I started painting to reconnect to my own soul, having gone through my own experience of trauma while raising a child with undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome, who had uncontrollable rages. I paint by a method called Intuitive Painting, whose mantra is ‘the canvas can hold all of your feelings.’ “

About the artwork:

“I was in a painting class when Adam Lanza shot and killed twenty-six people, mostly children, in a Newtown, CT, elementary school. While our country mourned the loss of those individuals, I also mourned for Adam and his mother, whose deaths were tragic as well. My experience with my own family members who had suffered from mental illness gave me insight into Adam’s fear and angst. In ‘Bless Our Children,’ a woman sobs under a weeping willow tree in the

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Fateful Encounter

Amy Eileen Hiscock

I cannot take my eyes from his face.

It has been destroyed in the wreck, along with the rest of his body. His head is misshapen, bloodied. Someone has tried to staple together one of the larger lacerations–extending diagonally across his face and under his chin–but there was little point. They gave up partway through.

I have never seen a dead body. I am twenty-five and in the second of five terms of nursing school. 

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