As first-year medical students, we learn that the hallmark of a holistic medical education is an emphasis on the human, personal side of this profession. One way we develop our patient-centered competency is through attending patient panels as part of our curriculum. Here, we learn from people who experience healthcare from the opposite end. From cancer survivors to leaders in healthcare policy, these panels supplement our education by encouraging us ...

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"Death comes for all of us. It is our fate as living, breathing, metabolizing organisms. Dealing with the fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live." - Paul Kalanithi, MD Recently, first-year students of the medical and physician’s assistant classes completed their seventh and final practical exam in clinical anatomy. Through fifteen weeks, 117 students learned the structures of the human body organized by region, working from ...

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During a day of shadowing during my first year of medical school, the physician I was following had been running behind schedule and instructed me to keep the final patient company until he caught up. I knocked on the door and found myself facing a wide-eyed, middle-aged man staring down apprehensively at his severely bloated stomach. As I asked the patient what was going on, he suddenly looked up at me and ...

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I’ve often been struck by a painting of Maimonides in my medical school. The artwork features him holding pages of a book that say, “Teach thy tongue to say I do not know and thou shalt progress.” That quote resonates with me more each day. As a first-year MD student, I’ve uttered the words “I don’t know” much more than ever. I’ve discovered that, whether I’m naming nerves found in the ...

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As I was finishing up with my doctor’s appointment for the required immunizations I needed for medical school, my doctor asked if he could give me some advice for my upcoming journey. Being the clueless pre-medical student I was at the time, I said, “Please do.”  He said something along the lines of “They’re going to try to rewire your way of thinking, but stay true to who you are.” ...

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"What do you want to be when you grow up?" It's a question I frequently hear from physicians on my clinical rotations. Phrased somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the wording allows me to answer either in jest or in earnest. "An astronaut," I sometimes say, hoping for laughs and no follow-up. Other times, I try out different responses like Halloween costumes: a critical care specialist, an emergency physician, a surgeon. If I want the questioner's ...

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"I should explain to you, Socrates, that our friend Cratylus has been arguing about names; he says they are natural and not conventional; […] that there is a truth or correctness in them." - Plato I once heard that the sound of one’s name is the most beautiful thing in the universe, which is probably an overstatement. But one’s name is one of the first words one hears from birth, as parents ...

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I had been diagnosed three days prior, given lithium to stabilize and a benzodiazepine to sleep. I went home. Things did not get better. I had been admitted just that morning after a long, confusing night in the ED. I did not yet understand the severity of what had happened -- or even what had happened. The mania was still mostly euphoric and speckled with bursts of joy, but between these ...

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The first time a woman went into the final stage of labor, I watched from a corner of the room. As a third-year medical student, I was on my six-week clinical rotation in obstetrics and gynecology, and it was day one of the two-week portion on the labor and delivery floor. As a loudspeaker announcement projected over the woman's screams, and nurses and doctors rushed in response, I instinctively clasped ...

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I’m writing this for my tribe of worriers and self-doubters, people for whom ever-present test stress is inextricable to the med school experience.  Sure, every medical student becomes preoccupied fretting over exams to some degree.  That’s part of what you sign up for.  But our preoccupation is something greater than that—it towers over us and bullies us.  It makes us cower in the corner, begging to be spared from harm. We’re ...

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