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Don, 1979

It’s 3:00 am. Deep in the bowels of the hospital, bright fluorescent lights softly buzz overhead in the windowless snack bar, where a row of vending machines give off a low hum.

Don, my sixteen-year-old patient, and I sit huddled in orange plastic chairs at a tiny Formica table. He is ranting, and I am listening. Neither of us can sleep. Don is awake because he is mad at the world, and I’m awake because

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My Homage to Palliative Care

As a medical resident, I found there was something about working on the hospice unit that gave me the urge to wander, to slow down; to put away my stethoscope and truly connect with those around me.

Perhaps it was the peaceful, almost hypnotic melodies of the in-house pianist lulling me in a trance-like state, awakening my curiosity. Her music floated sweetly through the halls, following my path as I drifted, lost in reflection. Perhaps

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The VIP

It was late at night, and as the neurosurgery resident on call, I was alone in the hospital, wishing that I could lie down, or even just slow down, in the midst of a busy shift.

I sat for a moment, awaiting the inevitable next phone call or text. Predictably, my phone rang within minutes. It was the trauma-team resident.

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Teachings

“It’s not like what they taught you.”

It is the winter of 2013. I am a second-year family-medicine resident, with big ideas and small experience. Brian is a staff physician, maybe three or four years into practice—years that might as well be decades. The two of us huddle in one corner of the little airport departure lounge in Sioux Lookout, Ontario.

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A Weird Fit for Medicine

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

Whenever the most recent piece of anti-LGBTQ legislation passes, the silence is a familiar song.

In November of 2022, we had the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs—soon to be followed by a nonstop onslaught of legislative attacks on the LGBTQ communities’ right to exist. After each one, the silence blared.

I remember walking into work the day after the Club

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What Little Separates Us

Among the handful of patients who visited the emergency department one night in June with abdominal pain, rashes or fevers, I especially remember Michelle. She was a woman in her late twenties, eight weeks pregnant with her second child. I was a second-year resident, and she had come for help with something I’d already encountered over a dozen times in my training.

“I think I might be having a miscarriage,” she said. She stopped herself, then looked at me

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Gift of Gratitude

We all remember our patients who die, though the first patient death really stands out from the rest. This was certainly true for me.

I was just starting the second year of my internal-medicine residency. This wasn’t the first time I’d seen someone die, but it was the first time I’d seen someone who’d been alive and well, and talking to me that morning, be dead by the afternoon–a shocking dichotomy that haunts me to

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Treating a Messiah

It was my very first day of psychiatry rotation in my family-medicine residency at the Baylor College of Medicine, Houston.

This rotation took place at the old Ben Taub Hospital with its unmistakable odor–a combination of drugs, detergents, illness and death. Even if I were taken there blindfolded, one sniff would tell me that I was at Ben Taub.

At any rate, having survived my first seven months of residency, I was feeling a little

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Dear Medical Student

Dear Medical Student,

I remember what it was like.

I remember what it was like the week before your clerkships begin, when you spend thirty minutes writing an email to the resident about how you’re excited to work with them, about how you’ve done cardiac stem-cell research and are interested in pursuing cardiology, and what can you do in advance, and oh, where should you meet the team on Monday morning? And they respond, “Great

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The Other Side of the Mask

I don’t know what it’s like on the other side of the mask.

Not the cloth mask, which I now wear every day, as habitually as my socks. I mean the plastic bipap mask, which provides the highest level of ventilation COVID patients can receive, short of intubation.

That mask.

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OCD: What It Takes and What It Gives

It started because of the news, or because the heat made me sweat, or because of neurotransmitters. Or my environment. Or nothing at all.

California was in a drought (as now), and in college I started to worry.

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Going the Extra Mile

August 2018
Western Kenya

One morning, in the women’s ward of a semirural hospital where I was working as a family-medicine resident, my team encountered a rarity: a disabled forty-year-old lady with crutches. Her case seemed to scream for attention, and I made my way to her bed.

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