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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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December 2014

Casting Out Demons

Jef Gamblee

As I stand beside the bed in Mr. Jerome’s living room, his pit bull puppy sniffs the body bag lying on a stretcher nearby. His cat curls up on the bedside shelf.

“That dog gonna be a problem?” asks Jude, one of the crematory guys.

“She might get underfoot,” says the neighbor, whose name I can’t remember. “But she’s a lover, not a fighter.”

Jude and Chuck are here to pick up Mr. Jerome, who died of prostate cancer today. His body lies on the bed–the wasted husk of a once lively, athletic man who had taught history in a New Jersey middle school.

I’m a hospice chaplain; Mr. Jerome was my client. I’d known him for about six months.

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Kahn Image 4

In Plain Sight #3


Peter Kahn

About the artist: 

Peter Kahn is a third 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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Teaching the Wound

Joanne M. Clarkson

                    For LS

Assume pain, I tell them, the young, the
minimum-waged, those who work the midnight
shift with no chance for stars. We lean
over the bed of a 93-year-old man with advanced
Parkinson’s disease. His face is
frozen, even his eyes don’t seem to move
unless you watch the sheen. These

student aides are to turn him, bathe and lotion
his stiffened limbs. After they roll him silent
and awkward as a rug, I notice the bandage
discolored with seepage, covering his left
calf. The notes had not mentioned

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Friday Before Christmas

Deborah Pierce

On the Friday before Christmas, I received an unusual gift.

Like any job, being a primary-care physician has both challenges and rewards. The challenges are many, and the rewards are often fleeting–a smile or a “thank you” from a patient or coworker, for instance. And I’ve found that being a teacher of medical students and residents brings an additional layer of rewards and challenges.

One Friday before Christmas, these arrived in an especially potent mix.

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dying in sanders

Dying for Change


About the artist: 

Justin Sanders trained as a family doctor and is now pursuing a career in palliative care. He has written stories for Pulse and serves as its visuals editor. Having studied art history and worked in the fine arts, he has a deep faith in their healing power. Justin and his wife live in Boston. When not tending to their ten-month-old daughter, Cecily, Justin loves to mess up recipes from a growing cookbook collection and to read The New Yorker.

About the artwork:

“On December 10, hundreds of medical students around the country held ‘die-ins’ to protest racist criminal policing and our broken criminal justice system and also to acknowledge and mourn the lives of black men, such as Eric Garner and Michael Brown, who have died unecessarily at the hands of the police. The students joined tens of thousands who have protested across the country in the wake of the grand jury rulings against indictment of the police officers involved in these cases. Moments

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Chemo or Lourdes? Welcome to Cancerland

Michael Carbine

Dr. Peterson, the radiation oncologist, gets right to the point.

“The medical center’s tumor board has concluded that your cancer is inoperable, incurable and untreatable,” he says flatly. “Any chemotherapy or radiation treatments would be palliative in nature.”

He begins explaining the reasons behind the board’s verdict, but everything he’s saying washes out. My mind stopped working as soon as I heard the words “incurable” and “palliative.” I am sliding into shock.

Dr. Peterson pauses.

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