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Medical Memoirs

Numerators and denominators

“A fifty two year old female comes in and encapsulates her presenting complaint in four short words: ‘I just feel blah.’ As Sandy Burstein noted, the family practitioner generally has less to begin with than, say, a nephrologist, who knows when referrals come in that their problems are in their kidneys. ‘Blah’ is a psycho-medical condition at the center of… Read More »Numerators and denominators

For the love of Spiderman (and the husbands who read his comics)

They met in Khalid’s comic book store.  Erin couldn’t stop coming in to pick up Dave’s monthly shipment of Spiderman “Books” which had been an important part of his life since his early adolescence.  His untimely death was not enough reason to stop collecting, and Khalid was an important friend who’d supported Erin through the final days of Dave’s illness. 

Please, please don’t ask me

I love being known.  As I have written before, I get a narcissistic pleasure when people stop me on the street to show me their teenage children whom I delivered years ago, or when the librarian says “Oh I know who you are, everyone does.”   This happens because while Montreal is a metropolis, English Montreal is a village, and Jewish… Read More »Please, please don’t ask me

The holy grail of patient care

In the legend of quest for the Holy Grail, soon after leaving King Arthur’s court, the young knight seeking the grail finds himself riding through a wasteland towards a castle.  Different stories have Percival or Galahad or Gawain, surrounded by withered fields. Nothing grows, and even the birds are silenced. As he nears the castle, he sees a man fishing… Read More »The holy grail of patient care


In the literature on medical errors there is a concept called the “Swiss Cheese Effect.” This happens in real life, too. Accidents happen when all the little precautions we use to keep ourselves safe fail and we literally slip through the cracks.   Almost three weeks ago I was on my way down the stairs to drive to my osteopath for… Read More »Slipping

All talk and no comprehension

My first experience using translators in Medicine happened when I was a feckless medical student doing an intake interview and examination for a couple at an infertility clinic.  The couple were recent immigrants from an Asian country and they brought the husband’s sister along to translate. You can imagine how uncomfortable and awkward that was. The questions in an infertility… Read More »All talk and no comprehension

The lifelong quest to stay relevant . . . and respectful

Attitudes towards gender and sexual diversity have changed tremendously over the course of my medical career. When I began in medicine most of the gay people at McGill were very discreet. My LGBT+ classmates lived in fear of being outed, knowing it could lead to them being shunned, mistreated or even failed. A prominent physician, who recently publicly thanked his… Read More »The lifelong quest to stay relevant . . . and respectful

Lessons on medical education from the tennis court

I am preparing to give a faculty development talk in Toronto next week. So I have been thinking a lot about giving effective feedback to learners, while sitting on the couch as Dave watches the U.S. open tennis tournament. I am watching distractedly in my ADHD way, intermittently riveted by the young American tennis phenomenon Coco Gauff.  There is a… Read More »Lessons on medical education from the tennis court