I remember seeing so many charts in my career on which the well-meaning emergency room physician wrote the following:  "Follow up with your primary care doctor."  Or, if they didn’t have one, "Follow up in one week with a primary care doctor."  I laughed to myself.  Usually, the people we say that to have either no insurance, inadequate insurance or inadequate motivation to even call the persons to whom we ...

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The last couple of decades have seen a dramatic shift of power and clout away from individual physicians and towards administrators and the business side of health care. In many ways, physicians have nobody but themselves to blame collectively; because for any large and respected group of people to surrender so much autonomy so quickly, a lack of strong leadership must always be a factor. So many different reasons for this ...

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Thanks to all the nurses who take care of my patients and every other patient. I may be a doctor, but you are the ones who deliver the care. You give the medications and hang the IV fluids. You wash the patients and turn them. You check their vitals and listen for bowel sounds. You walk with them. You talk with them. You fulfill their needs. And you provide comfort to ...

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Once upon a time, there was a man who was a very good cook. He was just an ordinary man, but he had real culinary talents. He could create the perfect meal for anyone who came to see him in his modest café. His maître d' and waiting staff were warm and well trained, and the menu was designed specifically for the clientele of his eatery. He gave each person his ...

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Monday morning. As I click through the usual beginning of the week barrage, I open an email from my ER chief. My heart drops into my stomach, where it begins to race. He's forwarded a letter of concern from a specialist from a different hospital. It's about a patient that I failed to help, and failed to diagnose, so she had to seek help elsewhere. As I read the details, I remember the case. I pick ...

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In 1991, I took a sub-internship in cardiology with a clinically-minded attending named Eddie Atwood. One day he stopped me in the hall: “You have a few minutes toward the end of the day?” “Sure. What’d I do?” I just knew some sort of defining verdict headed toward my Dean’s letter, to be shown to all residencies and preserved in an archive of medical student iniquities, was surely coming. “You students are ...

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USMLE Step exams are a rite of passage in medical education. They mark the  transition from pre-clinical years to clinical years, from medical school to residency and from intern to resident. One of the more difficult aspects of the transition to residency was convincing myself that I really was a doctor. The habits of explaining my role as a student, of hedging every statement with “I’ll need to ask the ...

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I settle into the bent-wicker chair on my lanai and try to relax. It’s a perfect island day, the temperature warm, the breeze cool, and I gaze out over the pool to the tops of the coastal mangroves. I’ve just come home from a shift at the local free clinic, and my mind is occupied by the work we did today.  My fourth-year medical students encountered some difficult patients, and ...

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Medicine can wear down our hearts and souls.  My journey in pediatrics has been filled with many rewarding experiences but haunting ones as well, like this one from my third year of residency.  By that final year of training, I was no longer certain medicine was really the right choice for me.  I was struggling with the notion that after almost 11 years of education, the destination was not quite ...

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Sometimes before I go on a run, I take the laces of my jogging shoes and tie them together in a knot.  I wear the pair around my neck with each shoe falling to opposite sides.  The heels clunk against my chest as I make my last minute rounds.  It's as if running is my job and the shoes are the instrument I use to perform that job.  Eventually, I ...

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