It was never his intention that the name would stick.  A decade ago, when he first began working in the restaurant, some of his fellow employees knew that he was formerly a practicing physician and started to call him "Doc."  Although many of his coworkers had since moved on, taking the knowledge of his previous profession with them, his moniker persisted. Doc liked the simplicity and tedium of his bartending job. ...

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Walter was far older than his chronological age.  A mere thirteen years, he kept company with a much older crew.  Doctors, nurses, and CNAs were his constant companions.  The other kids on his floor were either too sick to interact, or came and left within a matter of days.  But not Walter.  His heart was too weak to allow his departure, but too strong to be first in line for ...

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The daughter of the patient walked out of the room livid.  She was convinced that the nurse had no business taking care of patients.  She seethed as she recounted all the supposed injuries and mistakes that had occurred.  I took a deep breath and paused for a moment, trying to collect my thoughts. The daughter didn't know that I had watched this same nurse successfully perform CPR on a man the ...

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It hit me today while on hold with an insurance company to get a preauthorization. The call took thirty minutes. The medication was denied. And I knew that I was going to get an earful from the patient when I delivered the bad news. As I dialed the phone number, a disturbing, and yet all to familiar, feeling overtook me. Helplessness, powerlessness, impotence. I struggle with these feelings daily. In the beginning ...

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I have two refrigerators. The full size, expensive version, sits in the usual location in the kitchen.  The small black one rests idly in the basement.  Excluding this morning, of course, when I dragged it up the steps and begrudgingly coaxed it back into action.  Let me explain. Six months ago my old refrigerator started acting up.  Somewhere around year five, it’s motors groaned, its coolers moaned, and all the sudden the ...

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It was a little game we played. My shoes squeaked quietly down the hallway of the nursing home as I approached her room.  I knocked gently trying to avoid any particular rhythm or dissonance. Go away! Her voice was at once stern, and then followed by peels of laughter.  She only saved such greetings for me.  And I tried to trip her up.  I varied my visits by time and pattern.  Sometimes I ...

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It all started with the tip of my tongue.  Really.  I was chewing on dark chocolate chips with a vigor that was maybe a touch inappropriate for such a snack.  I bit down firmly and felt immediate pain sear through my mouth where the tooth overzealously punctured the soft tissue. I bit my tongue. Which wouldn't have seemed so calamitous if it had not been one of many bodily malfunctions that had ...

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He squeezed into the elevator just as the door was closing.  There was a lightness about him, an excitement.  His jacket was newly pressed and uncomfortably free of nicks or stains.   He stood at attention with perfect posture.  There was no sign that working at this early hour on a Sunday morning, nor even being awake, was something out of the ordinary.  Extraordinary. He glanced over at my tattered lab ...

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He had been educated at the finest universities.  He had graduated cum laude, or whatever the term is they use nowadays to signify distinction.  His pedigree was squeaky-clean. But as he haltingly entered the dark building at the end of an otherwise unexceptional suburban street, he felt more like a criminal than a scholar.  His office was drab.  Each room was glowing with the artificial light provided by an incandescent bulb. ...

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It occurred to me towards the end of our conversation that there was a large gaping hole.  We had talked about physician burnout, career choices, and his current plans.  He had drawn a map of his future.   It originally shot like a straight arrow towards clinical medicine, but now veered precipitously.  I took a moment to first clear my thoughts, and then my throat. Medicine, I explained, is still as ...

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