Author Archive

My own private ski school

With thanks to MF for the conversation that sparked this post. I had a problem with timing when I was getting ready to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Having spent the previous ten years studying, and then teaching English, I was unprepared for the rapid-fire of multiple-choice after multiple-choice questions and could never […]

On feeling powerless, or myocardial infarction 101

The little corner of the Intermountain West where I work has recently become something of a boomtown.  The energy industry is king on high dessert and mountain plateaus, and many people have moved to town to work on the oil-rigs, natural gas pipelines, and now, wind-farms that dot the landscape.  Workers come from across the country […]


On apples and medicine and falling from trees

I fell out of a tree when I was in the fourth grade. It was a spectacular autumn day with leaves on the ground and a clear sky over-head—a day made even better by the fact that school had gotten out early for a local holiday. My closest friend and I had spent the day […]

Favorite books recently read

The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Michael Pollan’s treatise on where our food comes from and the ethics involved in what we eat is simultaneously troubling, entertaining, and thought provoking. Twenty pages into the book, it will also have the careful reader considering every bite they put into their mouths. Pollan takes the mundane requirement of daily nourishment […]

Gardening in the desert, late-summer 2007 edition

As a child, I hated working in the garden. Gardening in those days meant pulling up weeds and chucking rocks from my parents’ ever-increasing vegetable patch in the back yard of our home, which was situated on a bench at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains in northern Utah. This bench had long ago been […]

Ten ironies and truisms of the ER

1. Really sick people usually don’t have many complaints. They are too sick to. Whether because of illness or trauma, people with life-and-death kinds of problems usually don’t complain much. They are either unconscious or all their energy is focused on staying alive. 2. The converse is also true: people who aren’t very sick but […]

Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, local politics and hope

I was living in Boston in the fall of 1992 When Bill Clinton was running for president against the first George Bush. In the final days before the election, he made a campaign sweep through the country that included Boston’s Faneuil Hall, only a few blocks from where I lived. Eager to see him and […]

My last patient

I have found myself thinking about an episode from ER a lot in the last couple of weeks. The Mark Green character, played by Anthony Edwards, is dying of a brain tumor and working his final shifts. In the episode I am remembering, there is a scene where he takes care of a young girl […]

Three patients, four families

A couple of weeks ago, I took care of Mrs. S., an 81-year-old woman who was brought to the Emergency Department by ambulance because of trouble breathing. With a host of medical problems and fragile baseline health, in the few days prior to our meeting, she had gotten even sicker: what started as a cough […]