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A Piece of My Mind
July 21, 2015

Learning to Breathe

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Hennepin County Medical Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
JAMA. 2015;314(3):229-230. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.3448

Orientation at Rush Medical College was a whirlwind of activity. From being fitted for our white coats, to standing in a line to make sure our immunizations were up to date, and taking a boat tour of Chicago, I almost forgot I would soon embark on my journey toward becoming a physician and a patient advocate.

As we settled into orientation, many speakers came to talk to us. The one whose message stuck with me was a young palliative care physician who gave a lecture about the excitement of working with patients; as she started to speak, you could feel the students lean in to listen. But then, she reminded us it wasn’t all medical cases and interesting diseases. Our patients are people and their stories will follow us around, pull at our heartstrings, and change who we were as physicians and humans. Some patients we’d forget. Some we wouldn’t ever shake. And then she gave us the advice that I still struggle with today: she told us it was okay to cry in front of patients.