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The Dying Man

The Dying Man
Written by Janie Cao
Edited by Mary Abramczuk
A few years ago, I spent half my day with a dying man. I remember these things about him: his name, his past profession, and that he was dying alone.

I never saw his résumé, the size of his house, or how much money was left in his bank account. I was not curious to know, either. But I bet they seemed significant once upon a time, at a dinner party, maybe. He worked as an engineer.

On that day—the day he died—no one who had cared about those things was there.
I was a stranger, yet I saw his last breaths. It was a curious day.

This world teaches us to do many things. To set goals (S.M.A.R.T ones, in fact) and to meet them. To maximize profit and minimize loss, and to use other people, to our advantage. We learn to build storage houses and efficiently fill them with glorified trash; to talk like we matter, and live like it, too.

Someday, we will all be that dying man. Not fully here, and not quite there; mere wisps of breath. When that day comes, will this world be at your bedside? 
Sometimes, I wonder.

Dedicated to a friend: May you find what you are searching for.
Photo credit: Jörg Lange
Clinical General Lifestyle MSPress Announcements Reflection

Medical Commencement Archive Debut with Dr. Timothy E. Quill, University of Rochester School of Medicine

Today the Medical Student Press kicks off Volume 1 of the Medical Commencement Archive. The Archive will now release a new speech each Friday. Stay tuned for spectacular reads which speak directly to the future of medicine with wise reflections from the past. The inaugural speech entitled, Who is Your Doctor?, comes from Dr. Timothy E. Quill, M.D., at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Read Dr. Quill’s full speech and bookmark the Medical Commencement Archive here.

dr quill copy 2Dr. Quill is an accomplished physician and author in the field of Palliative Care. He earned his undergraduate degree at Amherst College, and received his M.D. at the University of Rochester. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine and a Fellowship in Medicine/Psychiatry Liaison at the University of Rochester. Dr.Quill is now Professor of Medicine, Psychiatry, and Medical Humanities at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. He is also the Director of the URMC Palliative Care Program. Dr. Quill has published extensively on the doctor-patient relationship, with an emphasis on the difficult decision-making processes toward the end of life. He was the lead physician plaintiff in the 1997 Supreme Court case Quill v. Vacco challenging the law prohibiting physician-assisted death.

In his speech, Dr. Quill spoke to the class about the need for competent and personal medical care in this complex and fast-paced world of biomedicine with all its specialties and subspecialties. He drew upon his extensive clinical experience in palliative care to illustrate how a deep understanding of the patient and their family can help physicians not only guide patients through the plethora of medical options, but also make,

“…clear recommendations among those options based on their medical knowledge and their knowledge of the patient as a person.” Dr. Quill believes, “that kind of guidance and engagement, which is both medically competent but also very person, is what will make [one] a really exemplary doctor.”

Dr. Quill’s speech is indeed very touching and inspirational. His personal clinical anecdotes are moving, as  they illustrate how competent and personal medicine improves patient care. His focus and dedication to understanding and treating patients as opposed to diseases is evident and serves as a role model to all, including medical students. His words inspire medical student to,

“become one of those doctors who is not only technically very competent, but also very willing to engage with patients and families in difficult decision-making.

The MSPress encourages you to read his commencement speech to not only gain insight into Dr. Quill’s wisdom, filled with powerful anecdotes, but to learn from an accomplished and very thoughtful physician. Read Dr. Quill’s full speech and bookmark the Medical Commencement Archive here.

Thanks to Stephen Kwak, MSPress Editor, for his contribution to this blog post.