Sandra M. Swain, MD, FACP, FASCO

Jul 09, 2012
I think that one of the lost arts in medicine is observation. I thought about this on my morning walk today. We had a terrible storm, a derecho, last week which knocked the power out in the Washington, DC, area for over one million people. As I walked the neighborhood every day, I noticed a lot more than I had in the past. It was dark and eerily quiet except for the hum of generators. As the darkness turned to light, the very loud cacophony of bird songs began. It was amazing—were they relaying their plans for the day? Because after an hour or so, it was quiet again.

To get back to my first point, I think it’s so important in our field of oncology that we take time to observe the patient. I don’t mean talking to the patient or examining the patient, which are also important, but observe. One example for me is that I have a patient whom I can tell whether she is having a good day or not by looking at her eyes even before we start talking. My hope and goal is that I can get those eyes to smile even if it’s just a little by the time I leave the room.

I hope that we can have time to keep and teach the art of medicine, which is not reimbursable, but incredibly important to our job satisfaction as physicians and so needed by our patients.


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