Tony Sun (2 Posts)
Weill Cornell Medical College
Tony Sun is an MD-PhD student at Cornell Medical College. He completed his BA in English literature at Washington University in St. Louis. Tony read Shakespeare unenthusiastically in high school, but he reread and rediscovered Shakespeare in college and has since remained committed to a lifelong appreciation of imaginative literature.
Shakespeare for Doctors
This column is about the benefits of reading Shakespeare and is written with medical students, doctors, and scientists in mind. Reading Shakespeare’s verse drama trains reading skills, in the broadest sense of the word “reading.” Reading well means doing active thinking, questioning, and imagining, which are the same skills involved in reading a complex patient, or an elusive scientific problem. Shakespeare offers excellent plays for practicing these skills outside the clinic or laboratory, and my goal is to give examples of how I read his verse drama — each installment will focus on one play.
Picture the following two scenarios: The funeral procession of Henry V passes through Westminster Abbey, and the following remark is made: “The King from Eltham I intend to steal, / And sit at chiefest stern of public weal.” The second scenario is a physician who goes into an exam room and hears the patient talking about his “stomach pain,” intake of “spicy foods,” and his “use of Advil for headache relief.” These are two entirely unrelated scenarios, yes, but the shared theme is that both dialogues contain important clues to a bigger picture.
The barrage of words that greeted me as I was unceremoniously dropped off with my first medical team during my third-year internal medicine rotation twisted my stomach into a knot. Standing awkwardly with the team on rounds, the harsh fluorescent lighting overhead, I came to realization that I was much like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz…
The first two years of medical school, for most students, consist mainly of studying from books, lectures, notes and papers. If a student is having trouble understanding the transporters in the kidney, they can read their notes or review the lecture. Later on in medical school, students spend more time on clinical clerkships. If on a rotation a student is told they need to work on their physical exam skills, they can go to the library and check out a book on physical diagnosis. When a lab result comes back on a patient that may be confusing, a student can quickly look it up on the internet.
“If I begin to repeat myself, just tell me. I have Alzheimer’s. At least, I think I do,” the elderly gentleman said with a smile. This elderly patient of mine was a jovial gentleman and in fantastic shape with unremarkable vitals on physical examination. If it was not for his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, the physical and emotional state of this patient given his age is nothing less than enviable.
In his fictional novel “When Crickets Cry,” Charles Martin, who is not a medical doctor, takes on a difficult task: to write convincingly in first person as a medical doctor. This is an understandably difficult task, but the author is thorough in his discussion of the medical aspects of the story. He also convincingly creates a multi-dimensional character who is much more than a doctor, and it is the author’s proficiency at characterization that makes the novel a fascinating and compelling read.
When my classmates ask me to recommend poems for reading, I am always thrilled to share my favorite poems. After sharing, I sometimes ask myself the following questions: What am I recommending exactly? How can reading poetry benefit my classmates? How has reading poetry helped me, if it even has? These are important questions to think about, particularly when thinking about how to prioritize reading poetry alongside other activities; this would not be unlike using triage to assign priority for treatments.
“Why did you want to become a doctor?” I hate that question. It makes me cringe every time I hear it. Honestly, I went into medicine because my parents wanted me to. But that answer sounds mildly insufficient, so I feel obliged to give my customary “I love science and I want to help people” reply.
As medical students, we are handed many books and are told to read them — and memorize them, usually. In addition to the technical, fact-filled and scientific books we are given, medical students would probably benefit from being handed a self-help book or two. It is interesting that medical students, a group intent on making our lives about caring for others, so often fail to care for ourselves. The difficulty with medical students is that …
Medical school does a great job of teaching students about anatomy, biochemistry, differential diagnoses, diseases, medications, lab tests and imaging studies. Although science is a critical and indispensable part of being a doctor, understanding patients as unique individuals can be crucial to providing the best care. Knowing a patient’s story and being able to empathize can improve patient outcomes and adherence. While it is more difficult to quantify the effect of empathy than the effect …
Dr. Bill Yancey, MD paints a creative yet candid narrative of young resident Addison Wolfe’s maturation as a physician in his book, “The Reluctant Intern.” Based on his own experiences as a physician, Dr. Yancey constructs a platform of fictional realism grounded in the brutal realities of the culture in medicine whilst coloring it with an appropriate dash of creativity. We accompany Dr. Wolfe through the vicissitudes of his entire residency, highlighted through Dr. Yancey’s elegant …
Imagine an active neuron in the temporal lobe of the brain. This neuron receives a message through its dendrites and passes it to other neurons via its axons. This is the basic process of cell signaling. It shows the role of neurons and, more importantly, how neuronal disorders develop. Now imagine the neuron becomes overwhelmed by repetitive high priority messages. By the nature of cell signaling, it relays these messages to its many connected neurons. …
As students of medicine, we become familiar with the proper course of questioning that leads us to identify a patient’s problem. We take for granted a traditional paradigm of questioning, asking: “What brings you into clinic today?” and “Where does it hurt?” What we do not realize is that this conditioning is the result of a great epistemological leap taken after the French Revolution, which shaped the face of modern-day medicine.
Steven Lange (13 Posts)
Medical Student Editor and in-Training Staff Member
Albany Medical College
Steven attends Albany Medical College as a student of the Class of 2017. Raised in Queens, New York, he earned a BA in English with a minor in Biology from Binghamton University in May 2013. Some of his interests include poetry, martial arts, traveling, and continental philosophy. He is currently aspiring to become a radiologist.