Posts by Jordan Messler

If You Are a Doctor, You Are a Teacher.

To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art—if they desire to learn it—without fee and covenant -HIPPOCRATIC OATH Mrs. Truman, my fourth grade teacher, was given an apple by the other students. I put a human heart on her desk. Mrs. Truman was the first person I told of my dream to become a doctor. She didn’t knock my dream, or encourage me to broaden my choices, but let me enjoy my vision, and inspired and encouraged my path. She opened the idea to explore the human body, and not simply in books. Reading about the heart was one thing, but Mrs. Truman…

The Artist Arrived First: Anatomy and Art in Italy

Life is short, the art is long. -Hippocrates Aphorism Our pivotal moments today are holding warm hands and discussing issues of survival and comfort. And yet, the journey into medicine began with cold fingers and deciding which tortuous tool to use next. The medical school told us, "We trust you, you are now on the path to becoming a physician. But we trust you only so far as to start your education with a patient who doesn’t talk back." But this patient, our first patient, was alive with secrets and hidden beauty and we were granted a unique opportunity to unlock the “mysteries within.” The cold cadaver on the table, the chemical miasma, the cold air, and the jars of congenital malformation specimens lining the shelves on the walls: anatomy lab seems anything but beautiful. It’s a ritual rooted in hundreds of years of medical education, and a journey in…

Ten 2-Letter Words to Live by

One of my favorite residency attendings recently passed away. A life cut too short. Dr. Leeper, an Emory pulmonologist, was a prime example of the academic triumvirate: an incredible researcher, clinician and educator. Although I spent only a few weeks with him as an intern, I frequently find myself sharing and using his words of wisdom. As the intern, resident and students were scrambling around all day gathering bits of data, doing procedures, adjusting dials, or questioning what was happening, in would walk the Dr. Leeper, the attending who had all the answers. He acted with grace and equanimity. His actions and mantras held us accountable while letting us see the bar we could achieve. In those first days with him, while presenting a case, I would stumble with some lab tests, or relate that the outside records weren’t available, or discuss some imaging that was missing or delayed. He…

Big Fish, Brian Williams, and the Search for Truth

Once, as an attending, after the resident and student failed to do the spinal tap, I brought forth the clear silvery fluid with one hand. On a 400 pound patient. Oh, and I was practically blindfolded since my glasses fogged over for the procedure. During medical school, a brutal call had our team on for 48 hours straight, I pre-rounded on 20 patients before 7am, and diagnosed lead poisoning in a patient that was about to be sent to a nursing home for dementia. At a recent Grand Rounds, the computer died, and I had to finish the last half of the talk without the crutch of PowerPoint. (That last one did happen. Scary, but survived. And I now always have my iPad with the slides on standby). We all have our Big Fish stories, or as we call them now, our Brian Williams’ stories. The fish get bigger on…

What’s on Your Nightstand?

Before going to sleep read for half an hour, and in the morning have a book open on your dressing table. -Osler What is on your nightstand? I'm not asking about the NEJM issue from 2013 that you still haven't gotten to; or the gadgets glowing or dinging through the night; or the accumulating used tissue pile since you and all your patients now have the flu. What books are on your nightstand? As Osler would ask, what are you reading the last 30 minutes of the day? I'll tell you some of my list from 2014, and then a preview of what's ahead for 2015. (Not all of these books were published in this past year. Like that 2013 NEJM article that sits unread, I’m a bit behind on my reading). The Anatomy Lesson, by Nina Siegal I was in Philly this past year, and stopped in the Philadelphia…
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