As media coverage of the 50th anniversary of Woodstock shifted into high gear earlier this month, two articles in the "Arts and Medicine" section of JAMA called attention to another anniversary that transported me back in time. It has been 40 years since the publication of The House of God -- an unabashedly irreverent (some would say "borderline pathological") fictionalized account of author Stephen Bergman's ...

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Personal journal entry, September 11, 2017: Sometimes we wear womanhood like a yoke — burdensome on our shoulders, as we carry the torch for younger women coming behind. Sometimes, we swing womanhood as a sword, slicing, and jousting for survival in a world that started without us, and in some cases, would be more than happy to continue that way. Sometimes, womanhood surrounds us thick as a fog, wrapping us in ...

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We all expect hospitals to be open and operating when we need them, but extreme weather events like hurricanes are a strain on resources and pose significant challenges for hospitals. Closing a hospital is an extreme action, but several hospitals in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina did just that before the arrival of Hurricane Irma in 2017. With more than 300 hospitals and a higher share of older adults than ...

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The attending physician looked concerned. My fellow medical student’s face was wet with tears. I knew the next words out of the attending’s mouth would be “Are you OK?” and indeed they were. I have encountered this phrase many times, almost exclusively in psychologically traumatic situations.  It’s a reflex response to an uncomfortable social situation, the “right” thing to say to a student in distress. As medical students, we learn and practice the ...

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When I walked into my first shift on labor and delivery as a brand new OB/GYN intern, complete with a freshly starched white coat, I was 33 weeks pregnant. As I listened to my chief resident effortlessly sign out the labor board, I was terrified. As the words pre-eclampsia, chorioamnionitis, and postpartum hemorrhage swirled around the room, I couldn’t get my heart rate under control. “They already hate ...

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I yelled for the nurse as I wrapped my arms around Mr. John. He was suffering from a violent acute dystonic reaction from a dose of Haldol the night before. Severe muscle spasms overtook his entire body. I saw the whites of his eyes as his gaze shot to the ceiling. He had lost all control over his body — legs, torso, arms, neck, face, eyes. "I can't breathe, I can't ...

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I was an intern, doing a rotation in the coronary care unit (CCU) of a large urban hospital. It was very challenging: The patients had complex medical issues, and my fellow residents and I were given lots of responsibility for their care. Still, I felt I was finally getting the hang of residency. One of the first patients I saw was Mrs. Smith, a middle-aged woman who had come to the ...

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The money was so good in the beginning, and it seemed it might gush forever, right through tiny country hospitals in Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and into the coffers of companies controlled by Jorge A. Perez, his family, and business partners. It was his “secret sauce,” the rotund Miami entrepreneur would smilingly tell people in their no-stoplight towns. The money-making ventures he proposed sounded complicated, sure, but he said they would bring ...

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For more than 30 minutes, Robert Findley lay unconscious in the back of an ambulance next to Mercy Hospital Fort Scott on a frigid February morning with paramedics hand-pumping oxygen into his lungs. A helipad sat just across the icy parking lot from the hospital’s emergency department, which had recently shuttered its doors, like hundreds of rural hospitals nationwide. Suspecting an intracerebral hemorrhage and knowing the ER was no longer ...

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Toward the end of my clinical rotations, I met Salma, a 34-year-old woman who came from Egypt with her family to the U.S. two years ago. Wearing a latte-colored hijab, she was here at the hospital to care for her father, who had a case of congestive heart failure exacerbation with pleural effusions. When deoxygenated blood comes to the right side of the heart, it gets pumped to the lungs to ...

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