In the 70s when I trained, we had no add-on curricula; we had no milestones; we had little interference from governing bodies.  What we did have were role models. In the current century, when I talk with students and residents (and I do that very often) they talk about what they see or do not see from their attending physicians and fellow residents.  The carefully constructed curricula result from excellent intentions, ...

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Five years ago today I was at a memorial. Another suicide. Our third doctor in 18 months. Everyone kept whispering, “Why?” I was determined to find out. So I started counting dead doctors. I left the service with a list of 10. Now I have 547. Immediately, I began writing and speaking about suicide. So many distressed doctors (and med students) wrote and phoned ...

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Empathy is a cryptic term. Those in the health care profession can certainly spout off a variety of phrases and metaphors that are typically used to describe the concept of empathy in the educational setting. Throughout my medical education thus far it has been described as “putting yourself in another’s shoes” or “sharing in another’s emotion.” We are also taught early on what empathy is not. Empathy is not feeling sorry ...

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Born in 1920, Henrietta Lacks lived in Virginia and Maryland, worked as a tobacco farmer, and mothered five children.  At age 31, her life was unfortunately cut short by cervical cancer.  Since her death, she has helped catalyze numerous biomedical discoveries. Upon treatment at Johns Hopkins, Henrietta’s physician obtained a tumor sample.  To his amazement, her cells survived and divided in a petri dish.  Today, her cells are still used in ...

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Congratulations! At this point, you are almost halfway done with your first year of medical school. Either you have finally figured out what's going on, or if you're like me, you are still trying to figure it out. Relax, take a few deep breaths. Medical school is unlike anything you have ever done. The volume of information, constant testing, and overwhelming need to keep up with your peers is an ...

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“I lift things up and put them down.” This quote is from a commercial for Planet Fitness I have seen in the past. It portrays a bulky body builder on a tour of the gym premises. There is no real communication with the tour guide since he keeps saying that he lifts things up and puts them down, irrespective of what the tour ...

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Our powerful subconscious minds are processing information that we don’t even realize we are taking in, so to achieve gender equity we must actively uncover things that are unintentionally promoting stereotypes. For example, we know that if we want to promote a gender equitable environment that putting portraits of men on the walls of the classrooms would not be ideal. Even if there were one or two women in the mix, ...

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On TV shows, therapists decorate their rooms with leather lounge chairs, throw pillows and organza curtains that let in the light. But Dr. Hassan's office is in the clinic basement. The fluorescent lighting is sterile. She has a gray metal desk — I think every doctor I've shadowed as a medical student has had that same desk. But I'm not here as a student. I've been anticipating this appointment for a month. In ...

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“You folks have it easy.” As a resident, it is not uncommon to hear these words on the wards from older physicians. After all, this new generation is spoiled, one could say. At the time when I trained, we had hour limitations and “caps” on the number of cases we could handle as interns on our shifts. Now, that seems to have reversed. Second year was tougher in ...

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The news that the Department of Justice is supporting a case against affirmative action at Harvard has led me to reflect on my 38 years of experience in admissions at a New York medical school. When I started out in the late seventies, affirmative action legislation had already been in place for a decade. One of its goals ...

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