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May 12, 1989

Listening to a Different Drummer

Author Affiliations

Dr King is a Contributing Editor, JAMA.

Dr King is a Contributing Editor, JAMA.

JAMA. 1989;261(18):2691-2693. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420180115041

IN 1928, when I entered medical school, my role model was William James. He had taken a medical degree, and then, without ever having practiced, devoted himself to psychology, and finally to philosophy. Such a career sequence seemed admirable to an undergraduate who had majored in philosophy and psychology in college, and the exploration of that path was attractive.

I was no stranger to a life in medicine, for my father was a general practitioner, and an older brother had preceded me to medical school. The first 2 years, everyone had said, could be quite dull and disagreeable, and I gritted my teeth for that first rite of passage, the course in anatomy.

The First 2 Years  This course, which included embryology and a few lectures on medical history, was indeed dull. However, within the first 2 months I had an illumination. A surprise examination caught me unprepared, and some