There’s something you should know about your doctor’s clinical judgement: It relies on a flawed premise. As doctors, our medical education conditions us to look for patterns. Pattern recognition allows us to triage and identify emergencies. It helps us distinguish pulled muscles from heart attacks. It’s a powerful, if imperfect, tool.
Jenny Qi's poem first caught my attention because I carry two lines from Bob Hass: All the new thinking is about loss / In this it resembles all the old thinking. Death is the great equalizer, each of us must confront mortality.
In my article ‘Semantics in the Elevator’ a doctor reflects on his culpability after a colonoscopic perforation (not based on a real incident). The patient’s anatomy is fleetingly blamed; then he considers the fact that he just happened to be in the wrong place at the right time – the perforation could well have happened if a colleague had been doing the procedure.
My essay "This Story," published in the most recent Intima, is about bearing witness to a patient's story. Practitioners often view this dialogue as obvious psychobabble: Of course, we must listen to patients. Sadly, most practitioners think they are listening but are not truly doing this work.
Nowadays, with super high tech imaging and flexible mini microscopes that explore and photograph our insides, it’s pretty easy to visualize our physiology. We can picture what we are made of and how our bodies are working, or not working, in extreme close up detail. This is useful for doctors and scientists, and for the rest of us, it can be terrifying or fun, or both simultaneously.
“Every man can, if he so desires, become the sculptor of his own brain”.
This quote reminds me the concept of neural plasticity, which I have explored within my comic “Gray Matter” in the Fall 2016 Intima, a phenomena leveraged by surgeons and researchers in order to achieve a more extensive resection of gliomas without damaging functional areas of the brain.
Jung argued that spiritual leaders no longer exist to listen to stories of illness, and so the doctor was given this important task. We were left asking ourselves who will listen to patients' stories of illness and their anxieties about death if doctors are unable to do so.