Wart-charming on the NHS?

At the beginning of term, a booth would be set up in the school gym. Stripped to the waist and hunched with cold and embarrassment, we stood waiting for our turn to enter the booth so that the games mistress could watch us bend forward to touch our toes. Then she inspected the soles of…
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Musical medics

Twelve years ago James Gilchrist MRCP found himself at a career crossroads: he was on a prestigious medical rotation and he had a diary full of semi-professional singing engagements. He told me how he had gone to discuss his future with his consultant. “To my surprise, this eminent physician told me he himself had always…
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It’s a knockout!

If you had asked me about concussion a couple of months ago, I would probably have scratched my head and muttered about headaches. Now I am living with it, but I still find it hard to describe. What led up to the concussion? I am dependent on the observations of others, because in effect I…
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Doing better

Many GPs have a dim view of the intellectual gifts of surgeons. But Atul Gawande, Harvard-trained cancer surgeon, is different. He has a degree in politics, philosophy and economics from Balliol College Oxford. He broke off his medical studies to work as health advisor to Bill Clinton. During his residency he started writing for the…
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Goya’s self portrait with Dr Arrieta

Doctors don’t feature much in art. True, the walls of royal colleges record changing fashions in portraiture, and wealthy society doctors like to commission pictures of themselves. Satirists like Hogarth have lampooned the quacks and moody Scandinavians included them as bit players in deathbed scenes.  But only rarely does a picture featuring a doctor command…
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Hector Berlioz – Medic Fantastiqe

If you know anything about Hector Berlioz, it is probably that he fell in love with an Irish Shakespearean actress when  he saw her playing Ophelia, and that when she spurned his advances he wrote the Symphonie fantastique with its dreams of passion and nightmares of a witch’s sabbath. What is less well known is…
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“Get well soon!”

“When I go into hospital for an operation, I always re-read Ulysses.” I would have taken the speaker as a resident of ‘Pseud’s Corner’ until I remembered that after a high-impact landing on my left shoulder brought a skiing holiday to an abrupt end, I read Ulysses. Well, it was that or Danielle Steel in…
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Giving up …. or stopping?

When I first became a GP, there was a problem with easing octogenarians out of the practices they had served for more than half a century. Then came Mrs Thatcher’s purchaser-provider split and a new GP contract. Suddenly grey-haired GPs became an endangered species and no-one wanted to go into general practice. Now in 2007…
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Are we still all right, Jack?

Around the middle of the 20th Century three countries introduced systems designed to provide primary health care to all their citizens: the UK, China and Cuba. All three nations had emerged from devastating conflicts with a political commitment to more equal societies. All achieved success in reducing health inequalities. Through universally applied public health programmes,…
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Dennis

Dennis was in the fourth bed on the left. When I joined the firm he had already been there some while. Every ward round, the collective morale of the team would sink when we came to his bed. After weeks we still didn’t know what was wrong with him. From his pillow, Dennis regarded us…
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