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On Being a Doctor |

Untaken Steps and Untold Stories

John D. Rowlett, MD
[+] Article and Author Information

From Georgia Emergency Associates; Savannah, GA 31406.


Ann Intern Med. 2003;139(3):231. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-139-3-200308050-00010
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I'm not really sure when I first noticed him, proudly sitting on his porch with a broad smile on his weathered face. It was a comforting, peaceful sight—he in his twisted metal chair next to a tattered recliner, greeting the passing world. Most mornings as I hurried down a forgotten hospital access road lined with resident and physician housing, I was blessed with his presence. Countless times I told myself to stop, but I never did. There was always an excuse—a real or perceived crisis, meeting, or event summoning me to the hospital, as if a moth to the light. So, despite his daily proximity, not once during the past 7 years did I stop. Not when he was painting his World War II vintage clapboard home a muted yellow. Not when he planted flowers around the porch in spring, picked tomatoes in the summer from the small garden along the road, or raked the leaves from the autumn lawn. And I never stopped on those cool winter mornings when he unbundled his swaddled plants, removing the newspapers that protected them from the errant Savannah frost. No, I was too busy. I never took the time to share a glass of tea so sweet that it makes your pancreas cry, nor did I spend a lazy summer evening breaking butter beans.

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