“Will I ever get better, Andrew?” my mother asked. She laid in bed, too weak to sit up, unable to eat, her myelofibrosis in the final stages of its relentless course. Her question stunned me – did she not know she was dying? How could she not? Was she in complete denial? Was she simply grasping for a final chance at hope when all seemed hopeless? Reality quickly set in, ...

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One of the last things my dad said to me before he passed was, "remember to always look at the big picture." He said this many times throughout my childhood and teenage years, but it never quite resonated until I was thinking about it in retrospect. As I near the end of my intern year, my dad's words hold true. As an emergency medicine resident, I am often running on adrenaline. ...

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No matter who pulls the plug, divorce sucks. It does get better, and eventually, you get to a new normal — but the process sucks. I know this because our two-physician marriage ended 15 years ago when our daughters were six and seven years old. Divorce can be especially hard on physicians, and during these COVID times, additional challenges have surfaced for many divorced physicians. Some on the frontlines have been unable ...

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As hospitals everywhere have been using every health care provider available to them in response to COVID-19, the specialty of hospital medicine has shown itself to be uniquely suited for coordinating the effort, to be the front of the frontline responders. I suspect that many people don't understand what "hospital medicine" is, even though it's larger than almost any other ...

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Standing in the hallway, I look attentively to the computer screen while the attending skims the records. “This is a longstanding patient of mine.  I’m just going to have you listen while we do a visit with our psychologist,” he says. With the paucity of chairs, I stand. I wondered if it would add an unnecessary sense of urgency to the seemingly comforting timelessness to my attending and psychologist’s voices, ...

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On the morning of George Floyd’s funeral less than ten miles from our medical center in Houston, I was avoiding the word “Black.” Despite wholehearted pride in the strong Black presence in our community health center’s physicians, staff, and patients, I felt a loss of words that Tuesday morning. There was simply too much pain, grief, and rage in our community.

I was thankful ...

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I lost my mom to breast cancer two months before finding out I was pregnant for the first time ... with twins. Trying to navigate being a new mom of two without my own mom was ridiculously hard, both physically and emotionally. While I had help at first, within a month, I often found myself home alone with two screaming colicky babies. There were times I felt like I was ...

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Recently, a few colleagues and I sat down with our six incoming interns during a welcoming round-table discussion.  Being the closest member of the faculty to these residents in age and time from residency, I was best able to relate to them and their current feelings. I, too, sat in those chairs in a conference room that was last used for graduating our outgoing chief residents.  I, too, remember the feelings ...

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An excerpt from The Surgeon's Obol. July 1, 8 p.m. "Isabella Isaksen," I said with an arm extended. "Most people call me 'Izzie'." "Mike Gunderson," came the reply. Most people called him Gundy, but he didn't feel the need to let me, the goddamn intern, in on this. And ...

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I have been an academic surgeon in a large medical center in New York City for the past 20 years.  The current climate of scrutiny to systemic racism and bias (including prejudice against all “different” populations) coupled with our own struggles with growth and equitable distribution of resources has highlighted a disturbing trend. It is and has been customary for as long as I’ve been practicing medicine to relegate patients with ...

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