Patients are more than lab results

I loved my endocrinology block in medical school. It was one of my favorite units. One hormone acts on another gland, which either induces a positive feedback releasing its successor hormone or a negative feedback blocking its predecessor. It was step-by-step. It was straightforward.

I loved the material so much that I reached out to an endocrinologist to shadow her. I wanted to see the power of what we were learning applied to patient care. I’d always known that patient care was what truly motivated me. And the night before I was set to shadow, I had somehow found it in me to learn everything about the thyroid, the adrenal gland, and the pituitary. If there was a chance that a patient could have such a condition, I wanted to understand it.

The next day, the physician showed me the blood work for her first patient. The patient had a pituitary tumor. She recently had surgery to remove the tumor and now the endocrinologist was monitoring her hormone levels to ensure that the gland was functioning normally. More so than anything, I wanted to see her blood work. I wanted to see her cortisol and her T3/T4 levels, two hormones essential for metabolism that could potentially be affected by a pituitary abnormality. In class, we had learned how to assess blood work and how to diagnose common endocrine conditions reading such numbers. It was like a puzzle, and the thrill of correctly diagnosing a problem could be enthralling.

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