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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February 2015

Go Ask Alice

Ellen Rand

In 2010, I became a hospice volunteer.

My mother had died of a brain tumor five years earlier at age eighty-seven. I saw being a hospice volunteer as a way to express my gratitude for my mother’s compassionate hospice care and to help other caregivers to weather a loved one’s passing. And, as a former reporter and writer, I thought I could help people to write their life stories, if they were interested.

In short, I wanted to act on E.M. Forster’s words, which for me sum up the goal of hospice: “Only connect.”

I soon realized, though, that by the time most people come to hospice, they’re too ill and/or too demented to carry on a conventional conversation, much less to express complex thoughts about the arc and meaning of their lives.

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In Plain Sight #4

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

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A Sigh on Rounds

Jerald Winakur

White coat, sterile gloves
my instrument dangling

but she finally died
after such a struggle–the young

always struggle so–
I listened to her chest

till it stopped then clicked
off the machine.

It sighed for us all as the air
drained out. And the moon

was still low in the sky
so large, so round–this

is a shape I know well–
and it hung there like a silver disc

auscultating the earth…
But I could no longer listen

as I sat on a night lawn
slowly moistening.

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Thirty Below

Kristie Johnson

One cold February morning during my third year of medical school, I walked through the entrance of the rural hospital where I was doing a nine-month rotation, and made my way to the nurses’ station. Feeling the warmth return to my face, I set down my coat and bag and hung my stethoscope around my neck.

The charge nurse, Barb, waved me to her computer.

“Kristie, you have a patient.”

She shuffled through papers, grabbed a blank chart and placed the patient’s admission note on top. When she saw the name, her face fell.

“Ah, it’s Peggy.”

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Sick of Getting Sick

I awoke one Saturday morning to a terribly familiar feeling–a tight, barky cough, fast breathing, severe shortness of breath and burning in my chest. Another severe asthma attack. I knew I was in trouble.

Twenty-three years ago, when I was an internal-medicine resident, I went to be evaluated for recurrent pneumonia. I wound up being diagnosed with cough-variant asthma. Most asthmatic patients wheeze; when my asthma is bad, I cough.

I now realize that I’ve probably had asthma all my life. When I was a child, though, cough-variant asthma wasn’t recognized as a disease, at least not in the small upstate New York town where I was raised. So, instead, I was the “sickly child”–the one who got a cold with a cough that lingered for a month, who missed thirty days of school each year, who was teased for being smaller than the other kids and who, in high-school, coughed furiously after every cross-country running practice.

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weighting keppler


Hannah Keppler

About the artist: 

Hannah is a second-year medical student at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY. Her commitment to global health began while working as an undergraduate with Universities Allied for Essential Medicines. It has since taken her around the world–in 2013 to Geneva, Switzerland, as a participant in the World Health Assembly, and more recently to Uganda, with Doctors for Global Health, where she worked to expand village health worker and community nutrition programs. She is passionate about women’s health and family planning.

About the artwork:

“I took this picture while conducting nutrition screening in a village in the Kisoro district of Uganda. These five children were waiting their turns to be weighed and measured; the village health worker, a translator and I recorded the information. The scale required kids to hang from it, like a swing. It was a challenge keeping them still. Many kicked and screamed, making the scale

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