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One Hundred Wiser

Anne K. Merritt

I gather my belongings: stained white coat, stethoscope, pen light, black ballpoint. I stuff the last two granola bars into my canvas bag. I glance at the clock on the microwave, which is three minutes fast. 

Twenty-two minutes until my shift begins. One minute before I will lock the door to my apartment. 

Precision is critical: ER shifts change fast and blend together, from late nights to early mornings to mid-afternoons. Suns

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A Medical School Professor Calls It A Day

Neal Whitman

First Grade, long ago:
The bell was rung.
School’s out.
The Last Day of School!

A lie, of course.
The end of summer proved it so.
But today truly is
My Last Day of School. 
Today I retired:
took my last breath
as a professor.
But what had I professed?
First, that a preceptor without example is a vain thing. 
True teachers dare to be exemplars.
Second, that inspiration is an active process.

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Lost in the Numbers

Donald Stewart

A nurse entered the operating room; her eyes–the only part of her face visible above her surgical mask–held a look of mild distress. She stood quietly until the surgeon noticed her.

“What is it?” he said.

“It’s your patient in 208, Doctor. His pressure is 82.”

“Systolic?”

“Yes, Doctor.”

The nurse was referring to Mr. Johnson. The previous week, we’d removed a small tumor from his lung without difficulty–and, until now, without complications.

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Deja-vu

Justin Sanders

It looked like the skin of an orange–peau d’orange, in medspeak. My fellow interns and I had heard about it in medical school; some had even seen it before. As our attending physician undraped Mrs. Durante’s breast one sunny morning during our first month as interns, we knew that what we were seeing was bad.

Mrs. Durante wore a hospital gown and a brightly colored head scarf. She looked like a child lying

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Affected

Jessica Tekla Les

During my third year of medical school I was performing a routine breast exam, more for practice than anything else. I was trying the concentric-circles-around-the-nipple technique, one of several I’d been taught. About halfway through the right breast I found a lima-bean-sized lump, not far from the breastbone. I took liberties with this particular exam. I poked the lump, tried to move the lump, squished down on the lump. 

I took such

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Broken

Jordan Grumet

I was a third-year medical student in the first week of my obstetrics rotation. The obstetrics program was known to be high-pressure, its residents among the best. Mostly women, they were a hard-core group–smart, efficient, motivated–and they scared the heck out of us medical students.

I remember the day clearly: Not only was I on call, but I was assigned to the chief resident’s team. I felt petrified. 

We’d started morning rounds as

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Dr. B Gets an F

Gregory Shumer

Flashback to a year ago: I’m a first-year medical student–a fledgling, a novice–trying to integrate countless facts into a coherent understanding of how the human body works. Professors slam me with two months’ worth of information inside of two weeks’ time. They tell us that this is a necessary process, one that all doctors must go through: we must first learn the science of medicine before we can master the art of healing.

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Trauma in the ER

Michael Gutierrez

It was 5 pm on a cold November day. I was a third-year medical student heading into my first night on surgery call.

Changing into my scrubs, I wondered what it would be like. I knew that we had to carry a “trauma pager” and, when paged, get to the ER as fast as possible. There my job would be to listen as the ER physician called out his exam findings and enter

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The Winner

Majid Khan

I pull up on the side of the road on this rainy British summer’s day. The rain doesn’t make it easy to get my doctor’s bag out of the trunk, which I do in a hurry so I can make my way to the house where I’ve been asked to visit a 37-year-old man named Kenneth.

This really isn’t ideal. Now my bag is wet, my papers are wet, my trousers are wet

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Stuck

Ken Gordon

I have never told this story to anyone.

It all started one night about ten years ago, three months into my internship. I was on call, having just admitted a man with a possible meningitis.

He now lay curled up in fetal position on the bed in front of me, looking thin and ill. Preparing to administer a lumbar puncture (a diagnostic test that involves removing fluid from the spinal canal), I gently

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Ms. Taylor

Remya Tharackal Ravindran

Ms. Taylor was one of three newly hospitalized patients I saw that morning. She was a previously healthy woman in her forties, single and childless, who worked in the fashion industry. As I scanned her admission notes, three things stood out: shortness of breath, elevated calcium level and kidney failure. I read on, thinking of possible causes, then something caught my eye. Her breast exam had revealed multiple breast masses, and her

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Pearls Before Swine

Kate Lewis

I’m a third-year medical student, and I’m starting the second day of my new rotation–a month that I’ll spend with a family physician, Dr. Bauer, in his small, efficient home-based office.

Yesterday, my first day, a young woman named Sara came in for “strep throat.” She had dark Latina eyes, broad cheekbones and a delicate tattoo of the Chinese character for “dream” on her left wrist. She was 17 and seeking out a

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