We brought his family into a separate room with plenty of chairs. Sitting to the right of his father and mother, our attending uttered the first words in the room. “I think you know what I am about to say.” His mother took in a deep sigh, her eyes already swollen from inconsolable tears. “I think he is dead.” The whole room sank. We were all punched in the gut by those words. “Oh my ...

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For the first couple of years of medical school, the constant stream of exams and the anxiety that came along with each one seemed never-ending. I told myself that it was worth sacrificing my personal health to better the lives of others. I put off addressing my own mental health needs to keep advancing to the next level of education. I let stress manifest itself in new ways that my body ...

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This has not been an uncommon occurrence over the past 2 1/2 years.  In my bed with my laptop when I should be asleep, looking at blogs, taking quizzes, checking out stats on different specialties to find my place in this crazy world we call medicine. This wouldn’t occur all the time but enough that it was noticeable and something I clearly wanted resolved. On these nights my thinking started out ...

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Medical school attracts very similar kind of people. Most of us are high-achieving, intelligent people with the common goal of helping others. It is beautiful to think of all of the potential patients we could serve working together. Applying to medical school and medical education often suppresses that potential. Somewhere in between all of the courses one must take to enter medical school and the dreadful MCAT, it becomes a number ...

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My dad is a locally famed and sincere career politician. All my life I have seen him value public service over personal wealth.  As a young lawyer, he worked in Washington DC for the Department of Justice during the civil rights movement, and he often shares stories of his tour of duty in 1960’s Alabama. After that service, he came back to West Virginia where he has been elected to ...

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To whom it may concern: I am writing to you with great sadness, but with relentless determination to ignite change. I am a doctor with a disability. Two years ago I began residency training in pediatrics. The privilege was overwhelming as I stood a doctor in the very halls where I had been wheeled in as a patient with a brain tumor. I couldn’t believe that I had actually made it, ...

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Exercise. Growing up I competed in multiple sports. The physical enhancement of the human body through movement sparked my interest in human physiology and kinesiology. Consequently, my interest in physiology ultimately led me to medical school. It only felt natural, when medicine became what felt like the bane of my existence, that I’d revert back to this pursuit’s humble beginning. Given the fact that time was a scarce resource during internship, ...

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Dear Ms. Bresch, I couldn’t help but notice the barrage of negative press you’ve received lately regarding the significant price increases in EpiPens. A 461 percent increase since 2007, to be exact. People who require this medication for themselves or their children are up in arms about spending over $600 for a twin pack of autoinjectors. Most of these people have life-threatening anaphylaxis if they are exposed to certain allergens. To ...

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A.J. Smith, a pseudonym of course, walked into my office today, unhappily.  Most of her topical medications for acne caused too much irritation.  The ones that didn’t, weren’t working.  The doxycycline caused photosensitivity in the past.  But her friend’s dermatologist gave her isotretinoin, better known as Accutane, and she completely cleared.  As such, that’s what my patient demanded.  There was only one problem.  The degree of her acne didn’t warrant ...

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A few months ago, I was on my general surgery rotation on the colorectal service as a medical student. It was in the late afternoon that we started a case of a robotic rectopexy to repair a rectal prolapse. Our patient was a kind and warm 89-year-old woman. The operation finished without a hitch. As we undocked the da Vinci machine, the resident and I began to suture closed the multiple ...

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I’m feeling pretty good about myself today. My patient, recently admitted to home health care, was just not herself, low O2 sats, irregular heart rate with pain on inspiration and feeling a little clammy. While her recent surgery was a neck fusion, it still didn’t completely eliminate the possibility of a pulmonary embolism. Instead of spending 15 to 30 torturous minutes in her primary doctor’s voice mail hell, I made ...

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Three weeks ago, I changed jobs.  I left a high-tech, high-volume teaching hospital in one of the largest medical centers in the U.S. for the greener pastures of a small, private community hospital.  Why? I needed a less stressful position, lower acuity patients and to be rid of the madness of commuting. I am a registered nurse with experience in emergency and trauma nursing, critical care, electrophysiology and cardiovascular surgery. I ...

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It was the first day of my prestigious internship at the cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation center. I was a senior in college and eager to apply my knowledge from the field of exercise physiology to make an impact on the people beginning rehab. This was my first real opportunity to work as part of a health care team while proving that this is the right field for me to be ...

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Having recently watched a cable television recreation of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, I am left thinking about how far some of us have come and how far some of us haven't. The confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991 changed the concept of sexual harassment in the workplace by bringing the issue to the forefront. By the time, I started residency nearly 20 years after the ...

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I am forced to attend one of these mandatory continuing medical education (CME) events. My malpractice insurance provider has a deal with the state medical association. To get lower rates, I have to be a member of the association and every 2 or 3 years attend a risk management training session. I make it on time, despite the traffic. As I walk into the lobby of this rather nice building, looking for ...

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Maybe it’s just me, and maybe this is a regional/local phenomenon, but I have noticed a sharp increase in the number of non-physicians who sport their white coats on a daily basis around the hospital. First, let me preface this piece by saying I have absolutely nothing against any person who partakes in the care of patients; in fact, I commend all the helping hands that routinely dedicate themselves to health ...

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Three weekday call shifts left and two more weekends. The light at the end of the tunnel is shining bright, and I am relieved to be walking towards it. The only question that remains is what will I have left of myself and my life when I get there? I started residency with a husband who I loved more than life itself. I was codependent to a fault, never wanted to ...

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As I get near the completion of an intense 5-year orthopedic surgery residency program, I had an interesting interaction with our hospitals sub-committee specifically tasked to address duty hour and resident fatigue issues. As they gave examples from other departments about changes made to their programs regarding duty hours, a clear-as-mud connection was continually made. They spoke of “improvements” made as the result of residents stepping up to serve as whistleblowers ...

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The abandoned retractor clatters dangerously close to the other edge of the sterile field, saved only by the quick reflexes of the scrub nurse. The attending lets out a brief laugh, “I guess we’re using the Madagascar technique,” then it’s back to the operation at hand. Minutes pass as I continue to stand in my assigned place at the attending’s side, prepared to offer whatever meager contribution I can to ...

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In the hour after I heard the news, I experienced the full spectrum of typical reactions to a physician suicide. One end of the spectrum came from the attending in a clinic, who when asked if the residents could go home and mourn their friend who just committed suicide, proceeded to tell me a story of how when her grandpa died before a final exam in medical school. She decided to ...

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