“It won’t be the last sacrifice you make for medicine.” These were the words my surgical intern said between yawns as I expressed regret at having to miss a distant cousin’s wedding. The digital wall-clock read a blurry 3:15 a.m. as we sat together in the on-call room, the coffeemaker dripping black gold into the pot. She had three pagers affixed to her scrub pants which would beep intermittently in turn, signaling anything ...

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There are so many insightful stories out there about what happens when physicians experience life as a patient or family member. They always make sobering reading for everyone in health care. Over the years I’ve heard dozens of these stories from fellow physicians, describing experiences when they’ve unfortunately been sick themselves. It’s an inevitable fact of life for everyone that they will be the patient one day, but it’s often ...

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We were a team of women. A strong, intelligent female attending, a fellow, me as the resident, and the eager intern. Gunners in the ICU. Throwing in lines and throwing out numbers and grilling newly published papers for truth. Then I got a call from the head of the department. I was asked about another fellow in the program. A male fellow. His behavior was in question. I was asked if ...

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"Medicine is not for boys." That's what my 7 year old recently very emphatically told me. My son is not interested in becoming a doctor because it is for girls. He then suggested I discuss medicine with my 3-year-old daughter because she's a girl. My son instead prefers to be a fire fighter, soccer player, or superhero, or maybe a dentist because some boys still actually do that -- but definitely not a ...

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“You must respect the body you are trying to heal.” I heard this said twice into my headphones, the second time more slowly and firmly than the first, while I sat on the runway about to take off. It continued to echo in my head over the course of the flight. As a physician, the reference to healing a body has obvious resonance. However, as I embarked on yet another gathering ...

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Sometimes an interesting thing happens on patient rounds. Rounds are a traditional exercise in hospitals going back at least a century. In the old days, this meant the physician going from patient to patient. He (it was nearly always he back then) went over the patient’s progress with the bedside nurse, examined the patient, reviewed pertinent test results, made an assessment, decided on a plan for the day, and gave ...

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Several years ago, I was sitting at the gate in a Washington, DC, airport when I got a call on my cell. A close friend of one of my patients wanted to let me know that Lara (not her real name) had died after a long and difficult course of throat cancer. Lara was relatively young, a kind, brilliant and incredibly thoughtful woman, and I'd had a deep patient-physician relationship with her, given all that she'd been through ...

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In medical training, each morning begins with pre-rounds, a sort of prologue to the work day that gives us a preview of our patients’ conditions. Like a daily ritual, we arrive in the hospital as the sun begins to peek over the horizon and proceed to visit each of their rooms. Some of them are still sleeping, but we wake them up anyway to needle them with questions. Any pain? ...

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What is one of the rules that medical people comply with the least? My vote goes to "translation." The rule is that you must use a qualified medical interpreter for any interview or discussion with a patient who does not understand English. How is “lack of understanding” defined? It is usually fairly obvious. If you aren't sure whether the patient gets it, he probably doesn't. Why can't family members act as translators? There is ...

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A few months ago I wrote an article about a 28-year-old MBA who attempted to tell an experienced physician where to round first. The article was widely circulated and went a bit viral. Clearly, the scenario resonated with thousands of physicians across the country. It was interesting that afterward, I received many messages from various people who had read it. The majority of these were messages of support and ...

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