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October 17, 1986

Literature and Medicine

JAMA. 1986;256(15):2125-2126. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03380150135046

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In recent years an increasing number of medical schools have begun to offer medical students an opportunity to reflect upon the nature of their future work with the help of what I used to hear Dr William Carlos Williams keep calling "the novelist's angle of vision." What did he mean when he used that phrase? He offered this explanation one day, in the last decade of his life, to a medical student who had crossed the Hudson river to visit him yet again:

The abstract, categorical mind can be wonderful—the glory of the intellect at work, coming to its great big (and big-deal!) conclusions. But we've got to keep a close check on all that—the head running away with itself. The doctor treating a patient out there on the frontline falls back on himself, his own manner of being with people—and he has to come to terms with not only