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A Piece of My Mind
February 6, 2008

The Interpreter of Facts

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2008;299(5):497-498. doi:10.1001/jama.299.5.497

I remember feeling dumbfounded; perhaps dumb is a better way of putting it. A subintern, soon to be medical school graduate, I often sat in awe listening to Dr H, my medicine attending physician, as he expounded on various topics. One day he might be teaching about the streptococcal M types associated with pharyngitis and their relationship to rheumatic heart disease. The next day, while I was still trying to digest the information from the prior day, he would be lecturing about the interpretation of hepatitis B serology. Dr H seemed to possess knowledge beyond the scope of mortal me. Indeed, I had just subscribed to my first medical periodicals, so that I too could become a walking textbook, or at least become familiar with some of the literature that he and others were citing. Back then, we did not talk too much about “nonmedical” things like getting interpreters for those patients with whom we could not converse because of language barriers, end-of-life issues, or matters related to patients' spirituality. That said, one Saturday during morning rounds with a renowned division chief, I received my first lecture on professionalism when I was dressed down for not wearing a necktie. When the attending offered me his Royal College of Physicians tie, I remember feeling shamed, although tempted to take it.