Old age is no place for sissies. -Bette Davis “I want the surgery today!” She started to cry. “I’m ninety-four years old. I’ll accept any risk. Just take this thing out!” She looked back and forth between the anesthesiologist and me. Her golf-ball sized tongue cancer had been growing over the past six months. It wasn’t changing from day-to-day, but it had increased over the course of the three weeks since we had ...

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Students undergo a conversion in the third year of medical school: not “pre-clinical” to “clinical,” but “pre-cynical” to “cynical.” — Abraham Verghese, MD The scalpel hovered over the swollen, red and inflamed mass peeking through the opening in the sterile drapes. The patient lay on her side facing away from us, clutching the stiff emergency room pillow against her face and moaning as she rocked back-and-forth. Whenever the surgeon manipulated the mass, ...

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The present time has one advantage over every other - it is our own. - Charles Caleb Colton The cherubic young man smiles from the black-and-white class photo. His open, relaxed appearance captures my attention. He sits on a wooden bench at the far right end of the front row, his sharp white shirt and patterned tie cinched tightly beneath his three-piece wool suit with the stylishly wide lapels. He looks directly at the camera ...

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She was nearing the end of a long and interesting life. Her birth was announced on the party line in her rural community’s first telephone system. Her death, which would come soon, would be shared on Facebook and via cell phone. She had graduated with a degree in home economics from the University of Minnesota in 1938 and had worked for a meat packing company during and after World War ...

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Whatever we learn to do, we learn by actually doing it; men come to be builders, for instance, by building, and harp players by playing the harp. -Aristotle I groaned. "Don't make me operate with him again! I assisted him in surgery just last week!" I was low man on the totem pole and there was no point arguing. All of the residents and fellows kept track of the rotation and I knew ...

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Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence. -Vince Lombardi “So, can you leave this here with us?" I was part of a group of U.S. surgeons traveling to Eldoret, Kenya, seeing patients and helping the Kenyan ENT surgeons learn surgical techniques. Our two week mission allowed us to work across-the-table from Kenyan colleagues, discussing surgical approaches, demonstrating techniques, and reviewing all aspects of surgical care. “I have never seen such a thing!” my ...

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I was working side-by-side with a Kenyan ENT doctor at his hospital in Eldoret, Kenya. My wife, Kathi, and I were part of a team of head and neck surgeons organized by Indiana University spending two weeks working with Kenyan ENT surgeons to help them build confidence to perform operations independently. In rapid sequence, we were seeing dozens of patients who had signed up to be examined and hoping to ...

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The future of robotic surgery can be determined only by probing the possibilities. To ignore the potential for extending the boundaries and safety of surgical care with robotic technology seems unwise. -"The Future of Robotics," Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons (July) 2013; 98:9-15. It is a spring morning in July 2047. Jenny, a nursing assistant, emerges from an exam room and gently closes the door. She is wearing scrubs tastefully covered with ...

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You cannot connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. -Steve Jobs "Doesn't that window open any wider? Bring in another fan!" the surgeon demands. Beads of sweat gather at the edge of his cloth cap and the circulating nurse steps up periodically to wipe them away. Heat and city noise roll through the open windows and into the operating room. The brief morning rain shower has left the ...

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Medicine offers you a front-row seat on life. Meaning is all around you. When you can see it, it gives you a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to do this work. -Rachel Naomi Remen The first-year medical student cried openly during the session. Not hard, but enough to be embarrassed. “I’m really sorry,” she said, “but this is one of the things that scares me most about going into medicine. I cry ...

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