October 2014

Exam-Room Follies

Anne Whetzel

Pamela sits on the examining-room stool, looking at me expectantly.

I am in my first year of medical school. I do as I’ve been told to do in Medical Skills class: I observe my patient–without judgment or assumptions–and try to figure out what questions to ask, based on the information I am given.

Pamela has curly, strawberry-blonde hair and looks to be thirty, just a few years older than me. Her infant son lies in a carrier beside her.

Dr. Clark, whom I’m shadowing, has just given Pamela osteopathic manipulative therapy for her chronic headaches. Now the doctor is treating Pamela’s older son, age seven, for back pain; he fell off the school jungle gym a few days ago.

All three patients–mother, son and infant–are wearing red: a red tank-top on the mom, a red t-shirt for the son and a red blanket for the baby.

sage tiger II saj

Sage Tiger

George Thaddeus Saj

About the artist: 

George Thaddeus Saj is a New Jersey artist who lives and works in Montclair, where he practiced surgery for thirty-one years. His formal art education started at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts and continued at Dartmouth College. However, having always planned to be a doctor like his father, he enrolled in the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. After residency training and service as a staff surgeon at a U.S. Army hospital in Danang, Vietnam, he settled in New Jersey.  

His work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group shows in Cleveland, Chicago, New York and New Jersey. The University of Southern Florida has a collection of his bull maks featured prominently on the campus, in celebration of their sports teams, the Bulls.

About the artwork:

Sage Tiger painted wood, 16 x 14 in. 2012

Beauty gives an …

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Mrs. Finch and Ms. Virginia

Evan Heald

A Different View

Most days, Mrs. Finch’s perspective was outrageously optimistic and embarrassingly complimentary. Although she had the typical assortment of nonagenarian maladies, she would not let that define her; whenever she visited my office, it was hard to get to a chief complaint because of her relentless focus on how nicely the parking lot had been graveled, or “what a sweet, sweet nurse you have,” or my partner’s haircut or the “clever, clever little hooks” holding the geraniums at the entry.

Never mind the treasure trove of doubled superlatives she saved for me, her physician.

Imperfect Farewells

Judy Schaefer

I was not with my mother when she died, her heart bursting
against her ribs, screaming for a violent release from her chest
I listened, ear to phone:           nothing-more-could-be-done
          I recall her now, prayer petals of morning’s first red rose, the perfect
          Mezzo-soprano of a summer evening’s lullaby, an open window to song
Clinical colleagues reported massive myocardial infarction
I reported that I was an orphan

early1 moore


Alia Moore

About the artist: 

“I am currently completing my third year of internal medicine residency in Denver, Colorado. After graduation, I plan on pursuing primary care among the urban underserved. I discovered photography in medical school and have been taking pictures ever since. It’s one way that I explore my creativity and also a way to view my job and my patients from a different perspective.” Alia Moore has previously published a story in Pulse. Her portfolio can be viewed http://amphoto.virb.com.

About the artwork:

“This photograph is part of a larger project entitled Short Coats, which I completed in medical school after being chosen as an artist-in-residence. The series was meant to capture some of the new and frightening experiences common to young doctors in training, including the staggering amounts of information we are supposed to learn, the overwhelmingly high expectations of us by our patients and professors, the constant and desperate search for a single moment of free time and, as illustrated here, waking up really, really early.”

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Dance in Three Movements

Anna Schmidt


Once the weeks of morning sickness subside, I feel as if I’ve grown wings.

Even with the fatigue, it’s as though someone has pressed a great “reset” button on years of inflammation. That elbow joint that hasn’t straightened fully for years suddenly rediscovers its full range of motion. My knees, too, become straighter and stronger than they’ve been in many years.

Even without the meds, ditched in honor of my growing baby’s health, it is my best and most dramatic remission since my teen years–the last time my hormones went to town.

One Last Gift

Edward Beal

During most of my career as a psychiatrist, I haven’t often dealt directly with death. For the past five years, though, I have had the privilege of spending two days a week treating service men and women returning from deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Listening to their stories and talking with them about their war experiences, I’ve spent much more time thinking about death and dying.

Despite this, I was shocked when my wife recently told me she was planning to donate her body to science–specifically, to the Georgetown University Medical Center’s anatomical donors program.

My first thought was that she obviously has never been a first-year medical student in a Gross Anatomy lab. My next impulse was to warn her of her mistake.

Mask - White



Joanna White

About the artist: 

Joanna White is a music professor at Central Michigan University. She has recently had creative work accepted for work or published in Ars Medica, Minerva Rising, Naugatuck River Review, Grey Sparrow Journal and other venues.  She lives with her husband and has a daughter and a son in college.

About the artwork:

“At a preoperative visit with an anesthesiologist last year, I saw the oxygen mask that she would use and burst into tears. I believe that the sight of the mask brought back fears related to a surgeries in childhood. The startled doctor told me to take the mask home and ‘put it under your pillow’ to get used to it. The mask did not quite make it under my pillow, but I did make a watercolor painting of it.”

Visuals editor:

Justin Sanders

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