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A Piece of My Mind
May 17, 2006

Shut-ins

Author Affiliations
 

A Piece of My Mind Section Editor: Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2006;295(19):2225-2226. doi:10.1001/jama.295.19.2225

In the late 1970s I practiced medicine at a community health center in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. Many of my patients were poor, elderly, and chronically ill. They lived in a housing project called Terrace Village, which was somewhat of a misnomer since the place had no terraces, and the drab, cracked streets and institutional buildings looked nothing like a village. In fact, in Terrace Village there were no shops at all and very few gathering places because it was unsafe to loiter outside one's apartment any longer than was absolutely necessary. Because of this, the clinic, which occupied an open area beside the devastated playground, was an ideal place for older people to socialize. Thus, having a doctor's appointment was often an occasion to get out and hobnob with friends in the waiting room. I was young then and had a long, scraggly beard that amused my patients no end. But the thing they found strangest about me was the amount of time I spent listening to their stories.

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