The Art of Medicine — You never know when the plague will strike

Usually this mother greets me with a smile. There is no smile today. Her eye contact is fleeting; her sentences clipped and short—a marked difference from the office visit yesterday, when she came in with her sick daughter. more»

Interested readers can now access my latest Art of Medicine column — You never know when the plague will strike — recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of PAs.

Please note that all of my previously published Art of Medicine pieces can now be accessed here.

The Art of Medicine — Clinical diagnosis: No ideas but in things

The very first thing I notice when I step into the examination room are his eyes. Like newly ripened cranberries, they appear red to the core. The boy looks exhausted, as though he had been struggling to maintain a lengthy vigil, awaiting the changing of the guard. more»

Interested readers can now access my latest Art of Medicine column — Clinical diagnosis: No ideas but in things — recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

Please note that all of my previously published Art of Medicine pieces can now be accessed here.

The Art of Medicine — Touchstone: A heart to heart encounter

This is the first time I’ve seen this patient; I’m thankful that I took a few moments to review the problem list before I stepped into the examination room. more»

Interested readers can now access my latest Art of Medicine column — Touchstone: A heart to heart encounter — recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

Please note that all of my previously published Art of Medicine pieces can now be accessed here.

The Art of Medicine — Savoring the moment

“Your first patient of the day is ready in Room 11—a 21-year-old in for his yearly exam,” the nurse says. “He’s dropped his weight by 50 pounds over the past 12 months, down to 196.”

I look up from the news article on self-care splayed open on my desk. Perhaps I might learn something from this patient about how he managed his weight loss, I muse, as I rise from my chair and head down the back hallway. more»

Interested readers can now access my latest Art of Medicine column — Savoring the moment — recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

Please note that all of my previously published Art of Medicine pieces can now be accessed here.

The Art of Medicine — His song

The nurse has adjusted the ventilation mask on the infant’s face. Mist leaks from the mask as the baby reclines contently in the mother’s lap. Soft music plays from her smart phone next to the child’s ear. “Mom says he always calms right down with this tune,” the nurse says. more»

Interested readers can now access my latest Art of Medicine column — His song — recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

Please note that all of my previously published Art of Medicine pieces can now be accessed here.

The Art of Medicine — Care in the time of COVID

“Have we got any issues, George?” his mother says. “Have we?” She turns to me. “No, we haven’t got any issues. We are so done with COVID-19,” she says. “So done.” more»

Interested readers can now access my latest Art of Medicine column — Care in the time of COVID — recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

Please note that all of my previously published Art of Medicine pieces can now be accessed here.

Upon a peak in Darien

My 4-year-old grandson stands in his pajamas at the top of the stone wall in our backyard.

“Look, Pop-pops,” he says, holding his small hand across his brow, “from up here I can look out and survey the whole town!”

“Just like Balboa when he stood on that peak surveying the Pacific Ocean.”

“ Who was Balboa?” my grandson asks.

“An explorer from Spain,” I say. “He discovered the Pacific. Another man wrote a poem about it.”

“Who?”

“His name was John Keats. He studied to be a doctor, but became a poet instead.”

My grandson steadies his gaze from his peak perch. “Could I see the Specific Ocean from here?”

“Probably not,” I say, then pause to think. “Well, you could probably see it with your mind’s eye.”

He squints and stares off into the distance while I pull out my smartphone to snap a photo. Suddenly, something joggles my memory. I swipe the screen to a search bar and type in “upon a peak in Darien”. Momentarily, I’m looking into Chapman’s Homer over John Keats’ shoulder.

Quickly, I scan the poem. Ah, yes; there’s the line. Just as I feared: Keats had penned “stout Cortez,” not Balboa. But hadn’t Balboa been the first European explorer to gaze upon the vast reaches of the Pacific? Hadn’t he, in fact, named that calm, serene sea?

Perhaps Keats had taken some poetic license. The meter demanded a two-syllable name; Balboa has three. Still, I didn’t want to give my grandson false historical information. Maybe I needed to do a fact check.

My eye caught sight of a small link at the bottom of the page: “Fact-checking John Keats: Did the young poetic genius know his history? Who cares if he didn’t?”

I tap the button and begin to listen to the 13-minute discussion. Although it was Tennyson who called Keats out on this error (years after Keats’ death), the professor on the podcast argues that Keats knew his history very well: Balboa had discovered the Pacific, but Cortez had provided a nuanced poetic take.

As I saunter through the backyard, taking in the salient points of the podcast, my grandson follows, pushing a toy dump truck behind me. An ovenbird calls from the adjacent wood: “Teacher, teacher, teacher!” The notes come sharp and clear through the cool morning air.

I stop near the peak of the stone wall, a wall that I had built when my grandson’s mother was a little girl. My grandson runs his truck into the heel of my boot. I turn and look down at a mischievous face.

“It was Balboa who discovered the Pacific Ocean,” I say, “but Mr. Keats used Cortez in his poem.”

“Was he wrong?” my grandson asks.

“No,” I say. “Sometimes poets need to say things in a different way.”

He stands up and comes over to my side. Together we silently shield our eyes and look out over the local landscape — from a poetic peak in Darien.

The Art of Medicine — An incongruent encounter

A knock at the door disrupts my educational discussion with an adolescent patient. A colleague sticks his head into the examination room. “Could I have a word with you?” he asks.

I excuse myself and step out into the hallway, pulling the door closed behind me. “What’s up?” I ask. more»

Interested readers can now access my latest Art of Medicine column — An incongruent encounter — recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

Please note that all of my previously published Art of Medicine pieces can now be accessed here.

The Art of Medicine — At a loss

He gives a quick cough and clears his throat. “My dad passed away a week ago Sunday morning.”

Even though I have heard countless similar announcements over the course of my 4-decade career, the words still bring me up short. The death of a parent marks a major milestone in life. more»

Interested readers can now access my latest Art of Medicine column — At a loss — recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

Please note that all of my previously published Art of Medicine pieces can now be accessed here.

The Art of Medicine — Back to the future

This 21-year-old young man has come back to the office to review the results of his recent laboratory studies. I had left a voice mail message on his cellphone, informing him that all results were within normal limits. Perhaps he didn’t pick up the message; maybe there was a glitch. In any event, here he is, dressed in the same worn T-shirt, the same soiled work pants, the same steel-toed black leather boots, the same ball cap cocked back on his head. more»

Interested readers can now access my latest Art of Medicine column — Back to the future — recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

Please note that all of my previously published Art of Medicine pieces can now be accessed here.