LOU-ME1 I started kissing patients in med school. And I haven’t stopped. During my third year pediatric rotation, I used to stay up late at night in the hospital, holding sick and dying children. I’d lift them from their cribs, kiss them, and sing to them, rocking them back and forth until they fell asleep. One day the head of the department pulled ...

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Last week a woman told me that she had a miscarriage in her bathroom. She was terrified. She didn’t know what to do. So she flushed it down the toilet. A miscarriage is the spontaneous expulsion of a fetus from the womb before it is able to survive on its own. One in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage. Many women don’t know they are miscarrying. Those who know usually suffer grief ...

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physician-suicide A psychiatrist in Seattle had picked out the bridge. At 3 a.m. he would swerve across his lane and plunge into the water. Everyone would assume he fell asleep. A surgeon in Oregon was lying on the floor of her office with a scalpel. Nobody would find her until it was too late. An internal medicine resident in Atlanta heard an anesthesiologist joking about ...

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An excerpt from Pet Goats and Pap Smears. Phoning isn’t an option. Nor is e-mail. So I write a letter to the head elder, asking that the Amish community meet with me. He agrees. Today is the day. I accompany Steve, the hospital CEO, to an Upper Midwest town so tiny that the post office is inside the grocery store. On the third floor of a local bank, we ...

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An excerpt from Pet Goats and Pap Smears. My dad is eighty-eight years old. He finally retired from medicine at eighty-six. I call to check on him. “What are you up to, Dad?” “I just returned from synagogue a few hours ago. Right now I’m catching up on my reading. I’m finishing up the fiftieth anniversary issue of Medical Economics. That’s Dad living it up on a Saturday night. “It ...

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Cowboy Doctor An excerpt from Pet Goats and Pap Smears. After two decades of formal education, today I’m finally set loose with real patients. It’the actual moment I’ve been waiting for my entire life. We’re each assigned to a family doc for the month. I scroll down the list of third-year medical students, place my right index finger beside my name, slide ...

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IMG_35383 I pick up a Glock semiautomatic, the model used in the Virginia Tech massacre. I need to hold it, to feel it, to rub my finger across the trigger. I don't fear death. Raised in a morgue, I worked with my dad, the city medical examiner. As a kid, I watched autopsies and talked to dead people and made up heroic stories ...

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An excerpt from Pet Goats and Pap Smears. I’ve been practicing medicine nearly twenty years, but I’m still a doctor-in-training. Every patient who passes through my life teaches me something. Now doctors-in-training follow me around, but I think I learn more from my students than they do from me. Today Brooke is here. She is two years away from applying to medical school. She has a degree in natural ...

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I live in Eugene — a sweet little community with snow-capped mountains, farmers’ markets and the friendliest people around. But a few weeks ago, one of our beloved pediatricians shot himself in the head in a public park. Earlier this year, one of our surgeons was found dead in his car from carbon monoxide poisoning. And just before him, a urologist shot himself in the head in his backyard. Before him, a ...

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An excerpt from Pet Goats and Pap Smears. Both my parents are physicians. They are never home much because they work all the time. With no reliable child care, Dad takes me to work. The morgue is my favorite spot. It’s like our secret clubhouse. Nobody ever bothers us there. Entering the morgue, Dad opens the stainless-steel doors to the cooler and says, “Good morning! Is anyone home?” Then ...

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