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White Coat Ceremony

 
What do you think medicine’s most powerful diagnostic tool is? A CAT scan, perhaps? An MRI?

No. Look at your hands. These will be the most important tools of your chosen profession.

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A Lifeline of Yarn

 
During my internship in general surgery, I had few opportunities to go into the operating room, yet I was itching to put my hands to work. I heard around the hospital that a transplant surgeon I admired was a talented knitter. So I signed up for a basic knitting class at Michaels craft store, learned my knits and purls, and began constructing lopsided scarves using inexpensive, scratchy acrylic Red Heart yarn. I was quickly addicted to my

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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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Clapping Hands

 
“May I present to you the graduating class of meds…”
 
The uproarious burst of applause that always follows this statement is a wonderful sound–one that I’ve heard echoing through nine years now of medical graduation ceremonies. It’s the sound of the clapping hands of proud parents, exultant students, happy faculty and supportive staff who are all so glad to see this moment come.
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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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Taboo

Ralph B. Freidin

Every fall, medical schools welcome nearly 20,000 college graduates. They arrive anticipating endless hours of lectures, too much coffee, and infinite facts to memorize. There is one thing they do not expect, however. I know. Forty-nine years ago, I was one of them.

The first day I walked onto the wards was in spring of 1967. I was in St. Louis, doing my second year of medical school. Previously my

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A Routine Transgender Visit

Nat Fondell

“Hey, Rick. They warned you about me, I hope?”

My routine med-student opening line elicits a slight smile from my balding forty-two-year-old patient and the patient’s wife. As we shake hands, I continue the script.

“I’m Nat–the medical student. What brings you in today?”

“Well, I’d like to transfer my care to this clinic. We’ve brought my medical records.”

Together, they heave stacks of papers onto the desk.

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Denial

Kendra Peterson

July first Fellow,
a pager blares announcing
my initiating consult, a 29-year-old
(just my age)
malignant melanoma
and a first-time seizure
while receiving an infusion
of experimental treatment.

When I arrive
she’s already gotten
two milligrams of ativan
dilantin load is hanging
and I examine
a somnolent young woman
now coming ’round,
could be my friend, my

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Say It Ain’t So

Dominic Donato

I am in my twenties.

I am a student in dental school. My seven classmates and I have gathered, notebooks and pens in hand, for the first day of our ten-day rotation at the Veteran’s Hospital oncology department.

Dr. Steele, a published expert in oral cancer, instructs us to follow him to the outpatient clinic. Some of those he’ll examine are initial consultations; others are follow-up exams. All are U.S.

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Pimped

Anne Whetzel

It’s two months into my second year of medical school, and I’m at the clinic, preparing to shadow Dr. Neiland, a primary-care physician.

I didn’t want to come here this morning.

Yesterday, one of my preceptors decided that it was my turn to be “pimped.” Pimping, in medical education, is when the preceptor asks you questions until you get one wrong. Then he asks more questions, highlighting your ignorance. Theoretically,

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Chocolate Cake

Sanyu Janardan

I was a first-year medical student, starting my first afternoon at an outpatient clinic as part of an introductory course in clinical medicine. My white coat was freshly washed; I had a rainbow of pens in one coat pocket, and my shiny name tag dangled from the other. I only hoped that I was as prepared as I looked.

I entered Mrs. Carr’s room. A fifty-five-year-old woman, she sat gingerly at

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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

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