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A Piece of My Mind
March 5, 2008

Lessons From the Santa Fe Trail

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2008;299(9):998-999. doi:10.1001/jama.299.9.998

Throughout medical training, we physicians are taught to focus on our patients' needs and preferences. A simple dictum? Not exactly. During our careers, we learn the difficult lesson that rarely do we have the luxury of concentrating solely on our patients' wants. Although 30 years have passed, my trip along the Santa Fe Trail continues to resonate and was as much a trailblazing adventure for me as it must have been for Kit Carson. That experience left an indelible impression on me and helped begin my understanding of one of the dilemmas faced by patients with chronic illness and their families. Even as a young neurologist, I understood that medical decisions are rarely black and white. But it took a lot longer for me to realize the profound impact that others have on a patient's treatment choices and well-being.