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A Piece of My Mind
June 9, 2020

The Spectrum of Deaths Encountered by a Young Learner

Author Affiliations
  • 1University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor
JAMA. 2020;323(22):2260-2261. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.7083

I am grateful that the first death I encountered as a learner was a gentle entry into what will likely be a career-long relationship with death. I was in my third month as a clinical medical student, rotating at the Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital. I had quickly grown to love the VA and its constant display of teamwork. Upon entering the building, a security guard would smile and say good morning. Walking through the lobby, I would pass by lines of parked golf carts waiting to transport veterans to their appointments. Waiting for the elevators, I would make conversation with the staff and patients. These interactions would inevitably result in asking where someone served, or noting it on their proudly worn cap, and thanking them for their service. This often turned into a circle of thanks; patients thanking patients, staff thanking patients, and patients thanking staff. As a civilian and therefore a mere guest in this setting, I was happy to witness it.

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