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Medical School: The Never-Ending Fight or Flight

Andrea Hartford
About the artist:
Andrea Hartford is a third-year osteopathic medical student currently studying at AT Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona. “Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, I have always been encouraged by my family and others to raise the bar in my studies, which ultimately helped get me into medical school; it also pushed me to develop my appreciation of art, something that has helped keep me grounded

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Inner Turmoil

 
As a third-year medical student, I know I have a beautiful purpose in life. I care deeply about my patients. But the one person I am having difficulty treating is myself.

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Anatomy Lesson

 
“Okay, it is time to move on,” my professor claps his hands together and yells above the chatter. We all look up from our Netter’s anatomy books and our cadavers. The smell of formaldehyde burns my nose as the fluorescent lights flicker above.

“We have explored the chest cavity and the abdominal cavity. It is now time to move onto the extremities, starting with the arms. I want you to unwrap the arms and study

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Breaking the Rules

 
The one rule we were supposed to abide by was to avoid drinking or using water from the faucets. That was our mission’s only rule–one that was instinctive, given the recent earthquake.

It was 2010, and Haiti had just experienced a devastating earthquake that had affected hundreds of thousands of people. I was on a mission to Milot, in northern Haiti. It was my first medical mission. I was a bright-eyed, eager second-year

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Kenya

The unscreened windows were wide open, letting in both the breeze and buzzing flies. A chicken roamed about freely, unaware that it was in a surgical area. Off to the side sat a drying rack half-filled with “sterile” gloves, standing at attention like soldiers ready for inspection. In the center of the room lay a woman on the operating table, her feet in stirrups and her dress hiked up to her waist. She had delivered a

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An American Story

Sara H. Rahman

“Mr. Douglas?” I call out into the waiting room. A short, grey-haired man in his sixties staggers towards me, bracing his back with his hands. Despite his pain, he gives me a warm smile, which I return.

As I help him onto the exam-room table, he winces, squeezing my hand.

“I’m a medical student,” I begin. “If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to examine you before Dr. Smith sees

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Perspective

 
“Your ovaries never developed.”

I am trying—and failing—to wrap my mind around those four words, to grasp the weight of their meaning, but every time I try to speak or swallow, the sharpness of the word “never” lodges in my throat. Never, meaning never counting the number of fingers on an ultrasound, never feeling the flutter of little toes against your abdomen, never arguing about whether you prefer the name Sophie or Sophia,

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Untitled (A Medical Student’s First Patient)

I was terrified the first day of lab. Terrified of the slice of a scalpel through human skin. And, most of all, terrified of how I would react to the shock of making that first cut. 

I did make that first cut and many more afterward. I didn’t pass out, and eventually my heart stopped pounding when I picked up the scalpel. As time went on, we learned an impossible amount about the way

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Hope Heals

Hope has been the key to happiness in my life. Lows happen; troubled times are inevitable. But when I can hope that what hurts will be healed and difficulties will be overcome, I can be happy. Hope is something we can hold onto in difficult times and know, trite though it sounds, that the dawn follows even the darkest nights. I have also learned that hope sometimes arrives in different and unexpected packages.

During my

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Seeing Patients for the First Time

 
I wish I could see his eyes, hidden beneath a pair of shades. A tweed cap, or as I like to think of it, the “grandpa cap,” covers his head. With his hands resting on a cane, he leans his back against the chair.
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Presence

I take a deep breath in and let it out. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. I wipe the sweat off my palms, adjust the newly-minted stethoscope draped around my neck and knock on the door.

A voice croaks, “Come in,” and I enter the room to find the patient on the chair. His eyes look tired.

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Someone Loved Her Too

Sophia Görgens

The first mistake I made
was leaving my ID card home
in the pocket of my fleece–
the one with a zipper that broke
in Namibia and a hole stabbed
by a pencil during finals, worn
deep with worry and time.
Later, I asked someone else
to let me into the lab.
We made small talk in the hall.

Second, it was

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