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A Piece of My Mind
November 24, 1999

Ward 55

Author Affiliations

Edited by Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1999;282(20):1897-1898. doi:10.1001/jama.282.20.1897

William Carlos Williams wrote of Old Doc Rivers, "He was a young man then, full of information and tenderness," and I would like to think that I was too: 24 years old on my first medicine rotation at Cook County Hospital, one of the more overwhelming places in American medicine in 1968. Twelve admissions each night came far too often and far too intensely. The outpatient department was so overbooked that follow-ups were fictional. We had rules like every child younger than 2 with pneumonia and anyone with acute hepatitis were to be admitted. I ended up interning at County because it was the place that felt as if it were the center of all that Chicago had come to be in those days—a complex mix of medicine and politics but also housing the small dramas of daily life that almost drowned me in the richness of the experience. I think often of those times of more than 30 years ago as I see my new residents begin and the preclinical students set out on their way, into the hospitals, the emergency departments, the clinics. I remember my first moments of doctoring and how thrilled and scared I was—and how alive.

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