[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
November 24, 1989

The Duck Lady

JAMA. 1989;262(20):2842. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430200086031

We used to call her "the Duck Lady."

The Duck Lady always sat on a stone ledge in front of our inner-city hospital with a shopping bag nearby, quacking like a duck. She was a short woman with no teeth and a dirty scarf wrapped around her head. She always wore a tattered raincoat and her feet were bare, although they were so filthy it looked almost as if she had shoes on. I wondered how she ate and if she lived anywhere. Once I saw the corner hot-dog man give her a hot dog. On rainy days she was nowhere to be seen.

My classmates made fun of her at some of our teaching sessions, imitating her choppy gait and making duck sounds. One even used a drawing of her in a slide presentation, as a joke.

I wondered if she knew her name, or had any family. Once,