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Poetry and Medicine
December 28, 2011

My Favorite Diagnostic Tool

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Medical Faculty Associates, George Washington University, Washington, DC (apossner@mfa.gwu.edu)

JAMA. 2011;306(24):2648. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1693

I carry it with me in my white coat
 amid reflex hammer and stethoscope,
a tool more potent than an MRI
 yet invisible to the human eye.
The basic design of this special tool?
 On one end a What, Where, When, Why, or Who.
On the other, to provide detection,
 openness and an upward inflection.
It can uncover the diagnosis
 while leading to a better prognosis,
encourage patient-centered reflection
 rather than health care−acquired infection.
It's easy for any doctor to use,
 as long as he remembers this one truth:
what really makes this tool reap the quarry
 is letting the patient tell his story.
It does all this without needing consent,
 without a patent or profit intent,
which is why the question, simple and true,
 is my favorite diagnostic tool.

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