Why you’ll never escape being a doctor

I want you to do me a favor. Pretend we’re meeting each other for the first time. You have to describe who you are in 10 words or less without mentioning any relationship to another human being. You can’t cop out and say: I’m Anne’s husband, Paul’s mom or Mike’s oldest child. Who are you? […]

A test taker’s worst nightmare became reality

Doctors know high-pressure exams. The day before one is the worst. There is cramming followed by anxiety and insomnia. When sleep finally beats anxiety, the dreaded nightmare falls upon anxious test takers. Every doctor knows. Walking into the testing center, opening the exam, realizing you studied for the wrong exam. The questions might as well […]

Why do doctors treat their own so cruelly?

Medicine has created a culture where public embarrassment, bullying, and passive-aggression have become pedagogy. How can we seek to care for others, when we treat our own so cruelly? I recently met Angie (name changed), a young university student who had entered the clinical years of medical school. Like many, she was introduced to medicine […]

Don’t ignore incest: advice from an incest survivor

In the era of #MeToo, Missy Elliot, Whitney Houston, Tyler Perry, Oprah, Ashley Judd, Gabrielle Union, Teri Hatcher and, now, Padma Lakshmi — keeping kids safe and helping adults heal is our job as physicians. I am a pediatrician — and I am an incest survivor. My perpetrator was also a physician. I bore a […]

Care but don’t touch: Being wise in the modern era

The medicine I practiced between 1974 to 1992 is gone. Evidence is the coin of the realm in the courts of modern medicine. The rule “first, do no harm” demands a corollary — be paranoid. We receive extensive training and licensure to “touch” patients. Any person who is not a physician who cuts into another […]

Going to the gynecologist isn’t just about Pap smears

Some days, work frustrates me. Yes, we all have our frustrations. Maybe the traffic is slow, and you get to work late. Maybe you spill your coffee on your work clothes as you walk into your office. Maybe someone calls in sick, and you are short of help at work. But my frustration has to […]

This physician is a better hospitalist because of the time she spent in the clinic

Not knowing what else to do after finishing my pediatric residency 15 years ago, I became a general pediatrician. Not knowing how to find a job halfway across the country and closer to home, I relied on a recruiter from a smallish town in South Dakota to woo me into private practice. Not knowing how […]

How physicians’ grit is being taken advantage of

A vivid memory stands out from my career. Driving home from the hospital at 3 a.m., I reflected upon my most recent patient’s middle of the night delivery. It wasn’t an easy delivery, as they often aren’t. However, in the end, we had a healthy mom and baby and the family couldn’t have been happier […]

If you are ready to become a parent, don’t let residency stop you

I had the fascinating experience of interviewing for residency at 20+ weeks’ pregnant. Although a number of people told me that I was doomed, I found the experience to be quite enlightening. Since I couldn’t hide the fact that life outside medicine was going to be important to me during residency, I felt empowered to […]

Primary care does what Google can’t

Non-clinicians skip over some of the most necessary underpinnings of doctoring and speak too much about housekeeping issues: blood pressure targets, aspirin use, mass screenings, immunization rates and so on. People without medical degrees could do those things. But there are steps that must be taken before we worry about the measurables. These are the […]

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