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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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October 2023

My Superpower

When I was six years old, my parents and I learned that I have type 1 diabetes.

As I grew up, revealing my diagnosis felt awkward and burdensome. Whenever I was in a public place and checked my blood sugar by pricking my finger, I often had to explain my illness to others, which led to unwelcome questions. To avoid this, I developed a habit of mentioning my disease swiftly, as if pulling off a Band-Aid.

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Good Story!

My patient complains of chest pain a few days ago while mowing the lawn. He has no chest pain today, but his story is so good I decide to order an EKG, bloodwork, and some other tests. I start running the differential diagnosis algorithm in my mind; sometimes, a patient history is all I need to make a diagnosis.

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The Genesis of Forgetfulness: A Poet’s Journey

“The poet’s job is to translate unspeakable things on to the page…” – Roger Robinson

In the beginning, the Lebanese civil war barely seeped through the ceiling of our living room. It didn’t shatter windows or infiltrate through cracked walls. It became a slow fixture at our dinner table, nibbled on Mama’s delicately wrapped grape leaves, inhaled Father’s unfiltered cigarettes, listened to my older brother practice scale after scale on the upright piano and sat on the Persian carpet with my younger brother to rearrange his Matchbox cars. In our Armenian family of five, the war felt mute—a sixth character without words, an unobtrusive intruder who was given permanent residency.

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Inner Duality

If you have ever been in therapy, you likely discovered that while you share personal details about your life, the therapist reveals little information about theirs. From my understanding, when and what to disclose is part of a therapist’s training. In contrast, in medicine, relatively little about self-disclosure is taught. Instead, it is up to the individual to figure it out on their own.

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Bella’s Not a Girl Anymore

For more than thirty years, I’ve practiced general pediatrics and adolescent medicine with a private group practice in New Rochelle, just north of New York City.

Today I saw an adolescent girl for a checkup. Before this, I had seen her for a sick visit or two, but I didn’t know her all that well. She was accompanied by her father, whom I was meeting for the first time.

I started the checkup, as I always do, by asking if they had any special concerns.

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Blacker Than Bald Eagles

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

In the 1990s, having grown up in Texas and spent the summer before college playing semiprofessional basketball in Australia, I went to medical school at Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara, in Mexico.

While there, I experienced a striking and unexpected sense of safety. Although the people there normally never see Black people, they treated me differently from the way Black people are treated in the US.

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“It’s not like what they taught you.”

It is the winter of 2013. I am a second-year family-medicine resident, with big ideas and small experience. Brian is a staff physician, maybe three or four years into practice—years that might as well be decades. The two of us huddle in one corner of the little airport departure lounge in Sioux Lookout, Ontario.

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