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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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Tales Out of School

David Power

I am a professor of family medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School. During their third and fourth years, students must complete a four-week clerkship in family medicine. The clerkship includes a “significant-event reflection” project, in which students discuss patient encounters that they’ve found especially meaningful.

Over nearly a decade as a facilitator for these groups, I have heard many powerful and emotional stories. I’ve often felt deeply moved–and admiring

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Al Amira Abaya

 
“There are some unusual spots on my feet that I want to have examined,” says the fifty-something woman with a friendly smile.

She is wearing an al amira, a two-piece veil consisting of a close-fitting cap and an accompanying tube-like scarf. The rest of her body is covered by her loose-fitting abaya, despite Philadelphia’s sweltering July heat. I have learned that these garments are traditionally worn by Muslim women as an expression of modesty when they’re in the

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Fistula Patient on Four

 
When I joined the surgical team, she was already a fixture, having languished there on the fourth floor for over two months. Attractive, in her early thirties, she wore little but skimpy lingerie–garb that seemed at odds with her belly, criss-crossed as it was with surgical scars and small holes that weeped gastric juices and intestinal fluids. On the team’s daily rounds, the surgeons would don gloves, avoid eye contact with her, hem and

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Killer Shrimp Ceviche

Kristin Hirni

It’s October, and I’m a second-year medical student. My best friend Carly and I have just finished a backpacking trip through South America. We fly out tomorrow from Lima, Peru, and we have just one thing left to do: eat shrimp ceviche, the classic South American dish of raw seafood marinated in lime or lemon juice, oil and spices.

We wander along the busy streets until we find the restaurant our

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Blindsided

Alice Y. Kim

When Teresa showed up forty-five minutes late for her appointment, I sighed. I knew this would disrupt our clinic’s afternoon schedule.

That was nothing unusual, though. The clinic treats large numbers of patients who are undocumented, homeless and uninsured, and many must walk or take public transportation to get here. After seven weeks on rotation here as a third-year medical student, I knew that appointment times were flexible.

As I

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Happy Feet

D. Micah Milgraum

It’s a typical chaotic day on the hospital’s hematology and oncology floor. I’m sitting in a side room with one of my fellow medical students, doing paperwork and making follow-up calls for our medical team.

That’s when the music starts. The sounds of two guitars, a tambourine and a few maracas drift down the hallway. I can’t make out how many people are singing, but the happy voices and the

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The Abdominal Exam

 
“Your fingers are your eyes to see beneath the skin,” my stepfather says to me. “When you examine your patients, close your eyes and imagine what is beneath the surface.”

He and I–an experienced physician and a nascent medical student, respectively–are sitting on our living-room couch next to a twenty-year-old neighbor who’s asked for advice, after explaining that he’s had a sore throat, fever, and fatigue for the past two weeks.

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Letter to My Patient

 
Dear Ms. S,

I’m honored to have known you, I’m glad I had a chance to hold your hand before your surgery, and I will forever remember you as my first patient who passed away.

Within the first few seconds of meeting you, I knew you were a sweet person and had a wonderful, giving soul. I hope you are at peace where you are now. I hope you are no longer

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The Transition

As a medical student, I would show up to clinic the first day of my rotation and introduce myself to the receptionist. Standing there in the waiting room, conspicuous in my short, white coat, and referring to myself as “the new medical student,” I’d feel the patients’ gaze. The receptionist would wave me to the clinic, and I would sigh with relief.
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Morning Rounds

Veronica Faller

For my internal-medicine rotation as a third-year medical student, I was placed at Boston Medical Center, a large urban hospital that serves patients from all walks of life. My team included an attending, a pharmacist, a resident, two interns, two of my classmates and me.

Here is a snapshot of morning rounds with some of the patients I met, and of the emotions I experienced during my first weeks on the

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