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The First Cut

Ralph B. Freidin

“Just cut through,” said Dr. Trotter, my anatomy professor.

I had read the instructions in her 1947 dissecting manual. My copy, purchased used, was preserved by stale formaldehyde and smudged with the tissues of past cadavers who’d guided earlier first-year medical students from anatomical landmark to anatomical landmark within the human body. 

The time: forty-six years ago. The day: my first day of medical school. 

The dissecting room was on the second

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The Calling

Lawrence Dyche

I am a non-physician who teaches physicians. A clinical social worker by training, I help doctors learn to be more compassionate and skilled in their human interactions. I sit in with residents as they see their patients. I help them to become better listeners, I remind them that as they touch the body they also touch the soul, I emphasize the enormity of witnessing. And after two decades of doing this work with

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Family Business

Joanne Wilkinson

My mother’s mother was more a force of nature than a person. Chablis in hand, stockings bagging a little over her solid, practical navy pumps, she delivered her opinions without the slightest sugar-coating. She used words like “simply” and “absolutely” a lot. “He is quite simply the worst mayor we’ve ever had.” “She had absolutely no business having four children.” My cousins and I all listened and quaked, hoping the wrath would not

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Tug-of-War

Jo Marie Reilly

As I teach first- and second-year medical students to take patient histories and to perform physical examinations, I always feel humbled and privileged–energized by their compassion, enthusiasm and facile, curious minds.

Occasionally, I feel particularly challenged–especially when I’m teaching a student who, though bright, is struggling to acquire some of medicine’s basic skills. As we journey up the learning curve together, my responsibilities can conflict: as a teacher, I want to

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Piece of Work

Jennifer Frank

“You’re a real piece of work!” he spat at me. He was a patient named Martin; I was the supervising physician, trying to role-model for a second-year resident how to conduct a difficult conversation with patients like this. 

So far, not so good.

At first glance, Martin seemed an ordinary-looking older man, with close-cut gray hair and plain-framed eyeglasses. But I was struck by his scowl–he was expecting an argument, perhaps because during

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