The average amount of time it takes someone to become a physician is approximately 11 years, and for those pursuing further specialization, one can easily add a couple of years to that. The time certainly adds up by investing years in college, medical school, residency, and fellowship. By the time I will be an independently practicing cardiologist, I would have invested about 16 years into my training. That’s almost half ...

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I took my dog to the vet today. You’d think this would be a straightforward sort of thing for a medical professional. You’d be wrong. When I woke my dog up at 5:15 a.m. (my new daily start time, as it’s apparently the only way I can find time to do board questions and is also the excuse I use when I miss the majority of said questions), he seemed sleepy. He’s ...

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“Do you have sex with men, women or both?” This is the way that we were taught in medical school to ask a patient about their sexual history.  When we took our sample standardized patient exams, we were scored whether or not we asked this question.  In my understanding, this was supposed to be a non-judgmental, non-assuming way to elicit a sexual history. However, romantic partners generally come before sex (unless we ...

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A keynote address to Gold Humanism Honor Society Induction Ceremony, Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA. As an intern, I was assigned to 9 weeks over the year on the bone marrow transplant inpatient unit.  It was medically fascinating but emotionally draining and anxiety provoking.  I began to get nauseated going to work because I was having such a hard time with the rotation.  As I sank deeper ...

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My voice recognition software insists on typing “when needed” when I say “PRN,” and the other day I saw an orthopedic note that said, “before meals joint.” I was sure that the straight-laced orthopedic surgeon did not intend to tell the world anything about anybody’s cannabis use. Instead, it was obvious he had spoken the words “AC joint,” meaning acromioclavicular (on top of the shoulder). But AC can also mean ...

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Everyone has their abscess story. Tales of pressurized pockets of pus abound. Trust me: However far-fetched they may seem, they’re not. I had one such experience last week in which a man came to me with a painful red swollen lump on his back. It was about 2 inches in diameter, angry and fluctuant (softened) and ready to be drained, which he pleaded with me to do. So I did. Although ...

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My entire childhood I wanted to become a doctor. When asked by adults what I wanted to be when I grew up, it was always the same answer. Never did I consider being a fireman or policeman or professional athlete. It was always the same answer: doctor. You see, my father was a small-town, general practice doctor who was somewhat of a legend in town because of his unfailing dedication ...

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"Help!" I yelled out of our open apartment door. I was seven years old, and my family had recently emigrated from Egypt to the U.S. We'd been feeling elated that week because, after months of interviews, my father had matched into a pediatric residency. That morning, he'd awoke feeling nauseated. My mother and sister went to buy some soothing food. I noticed that he'd vomited in the bathroom; now he was feeling ...

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Down in Baltimore for a meeting, long days full of plenary sessions and workshops, awards ceremonies and poster sessions. Recycled hotel air, bad coffee, great camaraderie. Lots of new ideas, lots of new ways of looking at things, lots of reinventing the wheel, lots of hope for change. Lots of sessions about how to improve the environment for learners, how to engage medical students, how to build a curriculum, how to ...

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A patient comes into the ER complaining about throbbing migraines after falling off her bicycle; thus, the physician quickly orders an X-ray, complete blood count, and asks the nurse to schedule the patient for an MRI of the head and neck in case both those tests come back inconclusive. As an ER scribe, I saw many conditions where the physician would quickly do a physical exam, and then use a ...

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