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The Literature of Medicine |

The Internist's Reading: Contextualizing Illness

Rebecca J. Kurth
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Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians

Ann Intern Med. 1994;121(12):997-998. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-121-12-199412150-00023
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I had just returned from a week's vacation and had stopped at the local post office to pick up the mail that had accumulated in my absence. The woman behind the counter brought out two large bins and concluded, “I'd never go away if I got this much mail”. I spent the next 2 hours sorting through stacks of journals, letters from drug companies marked “urgent” and “important update,” notices of continuing education opportunities, and requests for donations. The compulsive part of me had to open every piece of mail because in the past, when I didn't, I often threw away important things like airline tickets, phone bills, and tax documents. Screening the mail—deciding what to keep and what to throw away, what is useful and what is unimportant—can be exhausting and time-consuming. There is simply not enough time to read everything that comes our way. What does sorting mail have to do with “The Internist's Reading”? Everything and nothing.

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