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September 23/30, 1998

The Ungifted Physician

Author Affiliations

Margaret A.WinkerMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthor


Copyright 1998 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.1998

JAMA. 1998;280(12):1051-1052. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-280-12-jbk0923

To the Editor.—Having practiced diagnostic radiology for 34 years, I can tell you that radiologists are rarely "gifted," since we are nearly invisible to the general public.1 While in the air force in the '60s, I took home no Christmas presents while the general medical officers took home their hams and packages of golf balls.

However, I did recently receive a gift that was very meaningful. I had seen a chest x-ray film of a middle-aged woman and thought that I saw a new faint "spot." I recommended to her internist that the patient should have a repeat x-ray examination and chest fluoroscopy to see if this spot was real. A few days later I saw the patient's name on the computed tomography (CT) schedule. I arranged instead for her to come in before the CT scan for the recommended repeat films and fluoroscopy. The new films showed nothing of concern and neither did fluoroscopy. Having finished the fluoroscopy, I said to her, "Let me explain what is going on." Her response was, "Good, no one has told me anything except that my doctor's nurse called me and said I have a spot on my lung and need a CT exam." I then explained to her about superimposed shadows and spurious appearances and that she had no spot and that she did not need a CT scan. She reached over the fluoroscopy tower, grabbed me by the shoulders, and planted a big kiss on my cheek. When I said radiologists were rarely "gifted" that way, she said, "I am going to have a sweatshirt made that says: I kissed my radiologist." I also have received teary-eyed thanks after discussing findings with patients who have had mammography (but have received no kisses). These are the truly significant gifts, and after all, those are the kinds of gifts most of us were seeking when we enrolled in medical school.

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