From the Wards

Boyoung Ahn (3 Posts)

Contributing Writer

Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth


Bo is a third-year medical student at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, NH. In 2018, Bo graduated from Dartmouth with a Bachelor's degree in psychology, then pursued a Master's in global health at UCSF. Bo enjoys reading, running, and hiking in her free time. In the future, Bo would like to pursue primary care and advocate for health and well-being of the geriatric population.




A Case of Alzheimer’s: A Reflection on Cognition, Will and Self-Improvement

My first patient with Alzheimer’s, Sheryll, led me on a journey of questions and self-growth which I had never expected. Until meeting her, I hadn’t thought extensively about how our biology may dictate cognition and free will. While my thoughts on the matter continue to develop as I broaden my clinical experience, these considerations continue to frame my understanding of my patients, myself and the world around me. 

The Language We Adopt

Huh? Just like that, my confidence took a nosedive. Jeff could have spoken to me in Mandarin, and I would have been no better off in understanding what he had just said. Suddenly, I felt very small in my new white coat. Rhinorrhea sounded pretty severe. How dumb would I sound if I asked Jeff how long the patient had to live? I thought. 

From Child Interpreter to Student Physician

I learned English out of necessity — not only for myself but also for my family. I grew up in Mexico and moved to a small Northern California town at the age of eight. When we moved to the United States, I was placed in an English-speaking classroom with no one who spoke Spanish. Necessity forced me to learn English quickly and, as a result, I became my family’s unofficial interpreter, including at their medical appointments.

A Heavy Heart

On Monday morning, a medical assistant finds me with a nasal swab in hand. I scribble my signature and temperature on the form he hands me. “Ready, Maria?” he asks, and then laughs when I groan in response. I tilt my head, close my eyes and wait for the worst part to be over. After 15 minutes of waiting in the student workroom, he tells me I am COVID-19 negative and set for the week.

The Silent Tears

In the pediatric ICU, a call was received from another hospital to give sign out for a patient already en route. The child being transferred had experienced a traumatic brain injury. The child was intubated after receiving every sort of therapeutic management imaginable in a desperate attempt to salvage any remaining brain function, but the prognosis was dire.

The Interview as an Invitation

Freud supposedly understood himself as a surgeon of the mind, dissecting his patients’ mental anatomy through the process of psychoanalysis. I found this comparison appealing, so when I started the psychiatry clerkship in my third year of medical school, I approached the interview in psychiatry as analogous to a surgical procedure — efficient, scripted, precise.

James Estaver (2 Posts)

Contributing Writer

University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine


James is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine at the campus in Rockford, Illinois, class of 2022. In 2015, he graduated from the University of Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy. He enjoys weightlifting, watching movies, and reading philosophy in his free time. After graduating medical school, he plans to pursue a career in psychiatry.