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October 11, 1985

Horse Sense

JAMA. 1985;254(14):1969. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360140127041

I met Vince during the summer break after my first year in medical school. Rather than applying for a summer scholarship to work in one of the research professors' laboratories, I instead found employment as a hospital assistant (aka orderly) in one of the affiliated teaching hospitals. The aspect of learning the business from the bottom end up appealed to me, as did the $5 per hour salary.

Vince was a veteran member of the "porter pool"—that group of invisible nondescripts whom nurses phone for delivery and pickup of various and sundry items. He was in his late 50s, nearly bald, and had a prominent emphysematous chest. He had been employed as a porter and hospital assistant for 15 uninterrupted years, although his thick accent suggested he had arrived in Canada more recently.

Outwardly, at least, he gave the appearance of a contented man. He was always smiling ear to