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A Piece of My Mind
March 21, 2007

Endangered Species

Author Affiliations

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

JAMA. 2007;297(11):1171-1172. doi:10.1001/jama.297.11.1171

On the good days, I am the right person at the right time. When I supervise a colposcopy or demonstrate my approach to problem drinking, my purpose is solid. I have skills to share and tools to give. On the bad days, I feel like one of the last straggling members of an endangered species, an anachronism that passes unrecognized in a crowded forest of specialists. I am a family physician, and I teach residents.

My sense of extinction was reinforced by a moving essay in this journal about a young woman's death from breast cancer. We heard in painful detail how her surgeons and her oncologists had dropped out of her care, one by one, as her condition deteriorated. I anxiously read on, skimming rapidly to see whether her family physician had supported her or failed her. My thoughts flashed to the deaths I’d been part of, the best and the worst. When I reached the end of the article, I scanned back again through the columns of words, thinking I must have missed it. But no—there was no family physician.

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