Harvard Medical School
My Journey to Medicine
The woman sitting on the examination table half-heartedly feigns a cough. I find the eyes of the physician I am shadowing, who is standing behind the patient with a stethoscope to her back. After a brief moment, the physician steps back, returns the stethoscope to her neck, and winks at me. With a smile on her face, she tells the patient that her cough had not changed since she saw her two days ago; no, she did not have the flu, but maybe some cough drops would help.
Deftly, the physician changed the subject: How was she dealing with her husband’s recent passing? Was she spending time with friends? I was surprised at the physician’s questions. What did this have to do with this patient’s fake cough? There were four other patients left to see before the day’s end, but the physician was taking the time to speak about this woman’s social life.
When I reflect back to my first shadowing experience three years ago, I can clearly see the physician’s discernment. A patient who seemed to be a hypochondriac was a woman who was depressed and lonely, and whose highlight of the month was a doctor’s appointment. As much as I tried, I did not fully comprehend the expansiveness of the physician’s role. Since then, my encounters with medicine...
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