1. I applied to medical school so that I could become a doctor and provide care for patients. I care about people. I am eager to be part of the health care community. I believe that most, if not all, physicians feel the same way. Physicians are also human and flawed and fallible. Everyone, including physicians, have off days and make mistakes and run late. What you may not know ...

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Today I have a practical exam; that means doctors are shadowing me. It’s my turn to talk with patients about their diagnoses, and I’ve been looking forward to that part of medicine. It’s my second patient; she’s here for vaginal discharge. I go in, introduce myself and explain my role. I’m still mediocre at documentation, but I’m good at putting patients at ease, so we make small talk. She just moved ...

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As part of my pediatrics rotation, I recently spent a week taking care of patients at juvenile hall. The patients were physically healthy for the most part; I saw them for screening physicals that they receive while incarcerated. However, these encounters were far more than a typical physical. Instead of focusing on medical issues, we primarily talked about health behaviors and general well-being. It was a rare opportunity to interact with ...

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Every fall, medical schools welcome nearly 20,000 college graduates. They arrive anticipating endless hours of lectures, too much coffee, and infinite facts to memorize. There is one thing they do not expect, however. I know. Forty-nine years ago, I was one of them. The first day I walked onto the wards was in spring of 1967. I was in St. Louis, doing my second year of medical school. Previously my presence ...

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I burned out for the first time in my life about three months after starting medical school. The surprising thing was that nothing out of the ordinary happened, I was doing exactly what they told me to do, pre-reading from lecture notes and recommended textbooks, going to lectures and labs, and trying to study and review what I learned that day in the library. The problem was, that after a 45-minute ...

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"… slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God." This quote, borrowed in part from poet and pilot John Gillespie McGee, Jr., was used by President Ronald Reagan to honor the seven astronauts killed in the Challenger shuttle explosion. I was in the 6th grade when I first heard this phrase. In a tiny schoolroom in remote West Texas, President Reagan’s speech was broadcast and replayed over the ...

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It was a concept intimately familiar to me long before anyone gave it a name. From my earliest days in college, I felt surrounded by people who packed their days with meetings, activities, sports practices or competitions; classes, study groups, and research; for whom every moment had been spoken for and each day didn’t so much end as spill over into the next. The standard was clear: to do any ...

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“Let’s say a Chinese patient comes into labor and delivery … simply logs onto the CultureVision website. Next, click on the Chinese section and finally click 'Labor, Birth and Aftercare.' Just that quickly you have the information you are looking for.” CultureVision boasts that it is the “first comprehensive, user-friendly database that gives health care professionals access to culturally competent care.” The website’s automatic slideshow, entitled “Did you Know?” shifts between ...

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Though I am two years into my residency, I still experience flashbacks to my time as a medical student on the wards. The adrenaline of arriving at the hospital 2 hours before rounds, scrambling to see my patients, constructing a note that no one would ever look at, and preparing a hastily-constructed presentation to deliver in a half-performance, half-examination outside of our patient’s room. I remember being the object of a ...

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It is February of our last few months of clinical rotations. I am a rising fourth-year medical student at a well-known East Coast institution with a not-so-bad track record, I guess you could say. I scored in the top percentile for the USMLE Step 1, honored my third-year rotations, and have comments from attendings about how I am destined to succeed in this career. One might think that at this point ...

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