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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Karen E. Lasser

Quasi Niente

On Wednesdays, one of the residents in my clinic precepting group usually presents a didactic. However, last Wednesday, the junior resident was absent, and I decided to present a case of a “challenging patient” instead. The patient himself wasn’t really challenging, I explained to the residents, but he was in a challenging situation. I had a 20-minute telemedicine session the following day, and I wanted the residents’ advice on how I should best spend my time with the patient.

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Only 50%: A Failing Grade for a Pharmacy Chain

Due to the war in the Middle East, my family and I had to cancel a much-anticipated visit to Israel this holiday season. Instead, we decided to fly to Bogota. My late father grew up in Colombia, but I’ve never been there; we hope to visit my great-grandmother’s grave and my father’s old neighborhood.

Given constantly evolving infectious risks, we made an appointment before our departure for my older daughter to visit an infectious diseases specialist. The physician sent prescriptions for acetazolamide (for altitude sickness) and azithromycin (for traveler’s diarrhea) to a local pharmacy—part of the country’s largest chain.

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It Finally Happened

It finally happened. Three years and four months after the pandemic began, I contracted COVID-19.

I wore a mask longer than most anyone I know. I dutifully received all the booster shots. I was headed to Brazil on a family vacation and decided it was time to relinquish the mask. My teenage daughters had been making fun of me for months. I was more worried about dengue, yellow fever, and zika as I slapped mosquitos buzzing around my ankles on my daily walk by the ocean at the idyllic beach resort of Buzios, a several-hour drive from Rio de Janeiro.

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La Emergencia

A stereotypical pathologist, my father was a man of few words and fewer friends. He spent long days in solitude with his microscope, examining tissues and cells. In 1982, almost 20 years before his own diagnosis with metastatic breast cancer, he published a rare case in which breast cancer cells invaded individual chest muscle fibers. He later examined his own breast biopsy.

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The Gift of a Botched Surgery

When I was fifteen, I attended a summer music camp with my cello. One evening, during a capture-the-flag game, the boy I was chasing fell. I tripped over him, breaking my tibia and bending my fibula. Two surgeries later at a small community hospital in Maine (external reductions to avoid scars), my shin was dented. To this day, my left leg is shorter than my right, and I walk on the outside of my left foot with a limp.

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