Crying when a patient suffers a devastating loss

I was a second-year resident, doing a 24-hour shift on maternity care. I’d spent some arduous nights on call with my attending physician, Dr. Campbell. Now, we sat at the nursing station, joking about what this one might bring. “You must be a black cloud,” she teased, accusing me of being one of those unfortunate […]

3 steps for doctors to move into the next level of career growth

In medicine, this is the time when one season ends, and another begins. New doctors graduate medical school. They are excited and, at the same time scared, as they enter into residency training. Interns become residents. Senior residents celebrate moving into attending positions or look forward to subspecialty training in fellowship programs. It’s the excitement […]

The freedom to admit someone because it was the right thing to do

The most high-powered rotation in my medical school was endocrinology. There, you got to see things most doctors never come close to diagnosing themselves. Uppsala University’s Akademiska Hospital served as a referral center for the Swedish population north of Uppsala, an area the size and shape of California. Back in the seventies, laboratory testing wasn’t […]

A story of persistence in the face of death

As Hannah’s granddaughter clutched at her skeletal fingers, the blanket fell to the side revealing the faded serial numbers on her forearm. The family gathered, yet again, to say goodbye. This time her acrid breath had lost humidity, her respirations dry and raspy, the extremities mottled with a bluish tinge. Death had visited the neighborhood […]

The hidden issues of the “dancing doctor”

Over the last month, a dermatologist practicing in Georgia known as the “dancing doctor” was suspended by the Georgia Medical Board, which said she posed a “threat to public health, safety, and welfare.” At least ten patients have sued this physician with complications including disfigurement and brain damage, and reportedly there are another 100 former […]

What I wish my family had known about medical residency

I sometimes get messages from people who have lost physician colleagues and loved ones to suicide. It’s the specifics of these stories that wound me: a note left for an unexpected person; an insignificant fight at sign-out that in retrospect is full of meaning; the white coat that a woman wore when she jumped to […]

Come see for yourself why medicine rarely runs on time

“Sorry, I’m running late … sorry, to keep you waiting.” How many times a day do I say that? Sometimes it is every time I walk into a patient’s room as if it is a normal greeting. Sometimes patients respond with: “Oh, you aren’t late” or “I haven’t been waiting long.” I can be so […]

Address physician well-being as we would any other disease

I lost a friend this month. She was a surgeon; she was one of us. We lost her. So did her patients. All the ones she helped. The ones she saved. So did her hospital, her nurses, her techs. So did her family. All the love, coming to a screeching halt. Continue reading … Your […]

3 things patients really want from their doctors

The doctor-patient interaction is the absolute core of clinical medicine. Maybe I’ll go much further: it’s the core of health care in general. I always try to remember, whenever I’m ever feeling frustrated with the system, the crazy bureaucracy — and of course, the debacle of our clunky electronic medical records and their data entry […]

A patient dying of financial catastrophe

I am not a doctor of finance.  I’m a medical doctor.  So when I enter an elderly patient’s home, I’m not expecting to do a wallet biopsy.  Whether they can pay me or not is of little consequence.  I do think, however, about whether they will be able to afford the care I prescribe.  Will they have […]

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