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On Being a Doctor |

“Teach Me, and I Will Be Silent; Make Me Understand How I Have Erred.” (Job 6:24)

Margaret Seton, MD
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From Cambridge Health Alliance and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, 02114.


Requests for Single Reprints: Margaret Seton, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital, Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology, Bulfinch 165, Boston, MA 02114.


Ann Intern Med. 2006;144(6):449-450. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-144-6-200603210-00015
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I would find him sitting in my examination room doing crossword puzzles, book after book of crossword puzzles. There he would be, a tall black man hunched over a difficult clue, gripping a dirty pencil, the nib worn. His face was scarred, as if someone had taken a woodcutter's tool and chiseled away at his skin—tunneling, excavating, and then discarding. Under the heavy-lidded eyes, which he would raise periodically with a “Do you really think so?” look, he would talk to me about his life. He reported his arguments with a neighboring tenant, his despair when the pain would recur, his weariness with poverty, and his despondency over being unemployable. “I don't know what I did wrong in life,” he would say with a smile.

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