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Occupational Empathy

On my first day shadowing an occupational therapist, I learned much more than I had anticipated.
We saw five patients that morning—with each one, the OT went through a series of exercises to test their strength and mobility. The first four visits were interesting, though uneventful, as the patients completed their exercises with varying degrees of success.
The last patient was a man with a history of alcoholism. He had a tube

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Paging Cardiology

Geoffrey Rubin

At 5:07 pm on July 27 of last year, my pager’s beep pierced the bustle of the hospital hallway: “CARDIAC ARREST, 6GS room 356 bed 2. Need cards STAT.”

It was only seven minutes into my first overnight call as a cardiology (“cards”) fellow, and I felt like I’d received a code-dose shot of epinephrine. In a most un-doctorly manner, I sprinted up the four flights of stairs to the ward.

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Stories on Hold

Ms. Darcey had been my patient for over four years. She was one of those fortunate few who made it to the doctor’s office only for their yearly physical exam. One day she showed up unexpectedly, in a wheelchair, her head tilted to one side. She had arrived at the diagnosis before I could make an attempt.
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The Secret

Gabriel Foster

“If my father dies, you’re going down with him.”

The words pierced the air, and suddenly there was silence.

I hadn’t noticed Frank’s son at first. He’d been pacing in the back of the family group gathered in our ICU waiting room. Now, up close, I could appreciate how large and intimidating he was. And I’d just had the thankless job of telling him, along with the rest of his

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A Mother’s Son

Hugh Silk

“Why do you want to go into family medicine?” my internal-medicine preceptor asked.

It was an innocent enough question. I’d known from day one of medical school what I wanted to do, so I answered with confidence, and perhaps a bit of a chip on my shoulder.

“I love being with people and getting to know them,” I said. “I’ve always been this way, so it makes sense that’s what

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The Making of Me

I was the new doc in a small country town. I wanted to be accepted. I wanted to do best for my new patients.


She was the town matriarch. She had multiple chronic illnesses. She had the power to make me or break me.


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Gloves on Hands

When my internal medicine residents put on gloves to examine a patient’s normal abdominal skin, I see red. Don’t they know that the easiest way to make our patients feel dirty and repellent, leprous and untouchable, is to deny them the skin of our hands?
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I head out of the emergency department of our local tertiary care hospital. The waiting room seems pitifully small, probably twenty chairs, with the security desk, check-in desk, triage station and the entrance doors in close proximity. There’s no space for pacing here, and sometimes not enough chairs.

I notice a familiar figure, dressed in bright red, who stands out from the others. With a start, I realize it’s Joyce, one of

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Perfect Circle

Francesca Decker

“You drew a perfect circle!” she exclaims.
I nod and smile as I explain,
“Yes, well, thank you…
And now this circle is a plate.
Half is vegetables.
A quarter is starch or sugar.
A quarter is protein–meat, dairy, eggs, or beans.”
Now she nods and smiles.
We discuss her diabetes,
asking her son to help her do weekly foot exams.

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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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Ten-Minute Miracle

Melissa Zhu Murphy

On Mother’s Day 2007, as I was finishing my freshman year at Vanderbilt University, I joined my parents for a warm, happy reunion in an Italian restaurant, celebrating both the day and the completion of my first year of premedical studies.

My father was blissfully breathing in the steam wafting up from his ravioli in lobster cream sauce as my mother prepared to dig into an enormous plate of basil

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Night Call

Heidi Johnson-Wright

When I was nine years old, I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that triggers an inflammatory response of the joints, causing swelling, stiffness and severe pain. The disease sped through my body like wildfire.

By the time I was fifteen, my hip joints were utterly ruined. Just getting out of bed was a slow, carefully choreographed sequence of movements, with frequent pauses to allow the pain to

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