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Family Summons

Amy Cowan

Startled out of sleep, I reflexively reach for my beeping pager. For a split second, I lie poised between wakefulness and terror in the pitch-dark resident call room, not sure where I am or what happened. I resolve to sleep with the lights on from now on.

I dial the call-back number.

“Pod A,” a caffeinated voice chirps. It’s Candice, one of the nurses.

“Hi. Amy here, returning a

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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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Relay Race

I sit across from my sixty-year-old patient, whom I know to be a sprightly woman, although she is now busy scanning the floor with her eyes.
I place my hand over her interlaced fingers. “What’s the matter?” I ask. 

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Deathbed Epiphany

Christina Johnson

As a family-practice resident, I’ve found that a premium is placed not only on my clinical acumen but also on how well I respond to my patients’ mental and emotional experience of illness.

Yet the work of learning to be a doctor is just that–work. And in overwhelming amounts. Time management becomes ever more vital: As I take the time needed to gently break bad news and to console a patient,

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Never Say Die

Christine Todd

In November of my intern year, I had trouble finding the sun. It was dark when I woke up for work, and it was dark when work was done and I headed back home. I’d picked up the service on the cancer ward from an intern named Bob, and Bob had left me six handwritten pages on the subject of Jim Franklin.

And this was the deal: Jim Franklin, thirty-seven years

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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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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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No Crying

Riddhi Shah

“There’s no crying in baseball!”

Over the years, my fellow surgery residents and I heard these words shouted countless times by Dr. Norris, a cantankerous elderly surgeon with whom we had the dubious pleasure of working.

Dr. Norris was a former Navy ship surgeon. He didn’t operate much anymore, but he fondly remembered the “good old days” when trainees spent days on end in the hospital. The phrase emerged whenever he

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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

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Fateful Encounter

Amy Eileen Hiscock

I cannot take my eyes from his face.

It has been destroyed in the wreck, along with the rest of his body. His head is misshapen, bloodied. Someone has tried to staple together one of the larger lacerations–extending diagonally across his face and under his chin–but there was little point. They gave up partway through.

I have never seen a dead body. I am twenty-five and in the second of five terms

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A TAB No More

Sandra Shea

I thought of Peter when I lost my TAB status. 

I lost it on vacation. These things happen. Suddenly, one Friday night in Florida, I was no longer a TAB. Shouldn’t have been too surprised, I guess. 

But I didn’t expect it would involve a chicken.

I should explain. 

I’m a medical educator: I have a PhD in experimental psychology/neuroscience, and I teach first-year medical

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The Pronouncement

Carl V. Tyler

I knew from last night’s house call that my patient Bessie’s time was near. All day long I’d felt the familiar churning inside, the sickly sweet combination of anticipated dread and anticipated relief. So when the phone rang while I was exercising at home, I wasn’t surprised. I quickly dropped the barbell weights to answer the call before it went to voice mail. 

It was Bessie’s daughter, Susan.

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