The surgeon had no prestigious named professorship, no N.I.H. grant and no plum administrative position in the hospital’s hierarchy. But to the other surgeons-in-training and me, he was exactly who we wanted to be. A decade or two earlier, he had started out like us, as
One night early in my internship, I received a frantic page for help from a fellow intern. Seasoned nurses had been unable to draw a patient’s blood, which senior doctors had ordered be done if his fever spiked, so they’d called the covering doctor, the first-year
The elderly man lived alone in an apartment complex not far from the hospital. A younger neighbor, who’d watched him hobble down the building’s stairwell for nearly a week, insisted on taking him to the emergency room. Doctors there immediately diagnosed an infection in his
Not long ago, I heard a respected senior colleague recount to a group of medical students and trainees the story of a patient who had died under his care some 15 years earlier. Afterward, he had spent hours talking with the family, trying, he said,
“He’s back?” my colleague asked, eyes widening as she passed the patient’s room. “He’s in the hospital again?” Slender, pale and in his late 60s, the man had first been admitted nearly a year earlier with pressure in his chest so severe he had trouble breathing.
Birdlike and in his 80s, the patient had come to the hospital complaining of a new cough. But it was not he whom my colleagues and I found most disquieting. It was his middle-aged daughter. With a practiced dexterity, she had managed to wheel her father in