I never thought I would call cancer "cool." It was the last day of anatomy lab. Finally, we had dissected through everything: starting with the back, moving through arms and legs, hands and feet, chest cavity with lungs and heart, abdominal cavity with gastrointestinal organs, pelvis, and ending with head and neck. Looking at our cadaver was disorienting. There were insides where outsides should be. Organs completely removed. The head literally sawed ...

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The study of medicine can be overwhelming.  We’ve simply discovered too much for one person to master completely.  This is the challenge medical educators are tasked with – what’s so important that it must be allotted time in the brief 2 years of dedicated book learning doctors-to-be receive? Students face a similar time-management challenge – first, we must decide what’s important enough to focus on, but the real question I think ...

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Some medical schools have altered their admissions process by replacing the traditional applicant interview with the Multiple-Mini Interview (MMI). MMI resembles speed-dating: applicants rotate through numerous interview stations, where they act out scenarios and solve puzzles, sometimes alone and sometimes in groups. A July New York Times article presented a good overview of MMI, as implemented by Virginia Tech Carillon. As you might expect, schools that have adopted MMI (UCLA ...

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His face was four inches away from mine.  I tried not to blink as he shined the ophthalmoscope’s light into my left eye and stared into my pupil as though it were the most interesting thing in the world.  He frowned, placed his hand on my head, and used his thumb to pry my eyelid higher.  He maneuvered for about 45 more seconds while I sat stone still, and then, suddenly, ...

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As a current fourth year medical student, one of the main things I look forward to after I graduate is trading in my white coat. For medical students everywhere, it’s a huge sign of accomplishment to shed the short coat and don the long one. It means you are now a real doctor. Medical students are required to wear short white coats that might reach to their fingertips, if they’re lucky. ...

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When the patient jokingly touched my nose, I knew I had muddied the boundaries between us too much and it was too late to go back. (Note: Except for the aforementioned sentence, all of the patient’s details and quotations have been fabricated.  Events from the interview and exam have been drawn from a conglomeration of patients and scrambled to illustrate a general theme.) It didn’t happen until the end of the interview, ...

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Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics has conducted a lecture series focused on Institutional Corruption. In December, Marcia Angell-Relman, M.D., the first woman to serve as acting editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), gave an hour lecture which focused on conflicts of interest (COI) in academic medical centers (AMCs), and continuing medical education (CME). After the lecture, ...

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Last year I was assigned to complete a history and physical on a patient in the hospital. Stifling my excitement to be doing this on a weekend night, I walked to the operator's desk and paged the on-call intern, who -- I'd been assured -- knew I was coming. "You're who now for what?" she stared blankly back at me after I'd explained my task. My patient (we'll call her Betty) ...

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Today I went to Middle of Nowhere, Ireland for a rural lumps and bumps clinic. I really enjoy the outings to the country, hanging around the little hospitals, and seeing the old farmers who drive in on their tractors (true story). I had the chance to see a nice variety of patients: from swallowing difficulties to sebaceous cysts, urinary retention to infected toe nails. For me the real fun is with ...

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"How are residents supposed to prepare for real life as a surgeon if they can’t even work twenty-four hours straight now?" I hear this complaint about once a month from a someone trained in the Golden Age of hazing. Outside of anecdote, we’ll never know if surgeons are better trained now or twenty years ago, or fifty. But it’s too painful to imagine every-other-night-call wasn’t of critical importance. Residency resembles the ...

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