Andy Dworkin

All work and no play makes Jack a dull doc

All-hill Halloween party, 2011. I just finished my third test in as many school days. It’s our class’ sixth test since school started this fall. In between studying for those tests I’ve been taking an elective, spending afternoons with lovely patients in clinic and going to lots of lectures. Some days, medical school feels like I’m slopping out an awfully big stable of knowledge, and our teachers just keep bringing in more horses. Which is … Read More

Sweeter the second time around

I realized last week, with a degree of shock, that an important thing had happened during my first year of medical school: I learned something. Not something about medicine, necessarily. I did absorb a lot of complex biomedical information during year one. But over the summer, I swear that I forgot every telltale symptom and drug interaction I’d squeezed into my skull. The Liver Flap? Isn’t that a bar on Alberta? I dragged back for … Read More

Off with his bread!

Strange things stir us medical students up. We can look at pictures of mutilated heads and sloughing skin while sipping coffee. We can cut apart dead bodies while chatting about our weekend plans. But mention margarine and partially hydrogenated heck might break loose. Three of us spent five minutes the other day discussing our shock and surprise after a professor mentioned the nasty Napoleonic spread in a lecture (Napoleon’s nephew spawned margarine; fortunately, French cooking … Read More

Nothing doing

My classmates are amazing folks. I’ve talked to people who have spent their summer working to improve people’s health, or make progress research that will advance our understanding of what causes disease or how to treat it. I spent hours the other night talking to a friend about the astounding organ harvesting surgery he had just seen. I read blog posts about learning a new language or presenting research at prestigious conferences. I’m impressed. My … Read More

646 germs, and counting

I’m living with a 30-foot tapeworm, five flavors of hepatitis and an untreatable, brain-eating amoeba that loves warm water inside of me. They’re not infecting me, thank goodness (though you can harbor one of those worms without knowing it). Instead, they’re among the hundreds of little nasties that took up residence in my memory. The first year medical students learned 646 microorganisms, to be precise. In one, eight-week class. It’s hard to fathom the ocean … Read More

Pound foolish

Gerald (not his real name) is an overweight, middle-aged man with diabetes and heart disease who came into the clinic for problems with his liver and fluid retention in his belly. My preceptor (that’s a doctor who nobly agrees to host a newbie med student in clinic one afternoon each week) had seen Gerald two weeks before. He tweaked Gerald’s drugs, stressing the need to take his water pills and improve his diet. Now, Gerald … Read More

The Hippocratic Sloth

“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed. “It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed. — Joseph Heller I’m a bit of a mess, physically speaking. I’ve never had the body of an Olympian, but there were times, years even, when I made it to the gym four or five days a week. Now, I belong to a fabulous gym on the second floor of OHSU’s snazzy building at the South Waterfront. Membership is free … Read More


The man had a tumor in one lung. A big one, apparently. Large enough to pull his gullet and Adam’s apple visibly to the left. I wait my turn with other medical students walking the wards, put my stethoscope to his back and hear…nothing. Other side, other lung. Nothing. Back and forth, again. Not a damn thing. Again. Frustrated, I move aside so others can get their turn. The pulmonologist teaching us asks if we’d … Read More

A chance to heal

Some of the surgeon wannabes are already saying “a chance to cut is a chance to heal.” Which is great, if you don’t mind having your skin sliced up. Me, I’m more of a chat over coffee guy. That’s why I’m looking forward to Sunday, when I and a few dozen other OHSU and Portland State students will offer health screening and information to underinsured people in downtown Portland. For several years, OHSU students have … Read More

What I fear the most

I’m going to hurt somebody, bad. Maybe even kill someone. This unhappy thought keeps surfacing in my brain like the mechanized gerbil in Whack-A-Mole. It’s not an event I’m actively planning (my classmates and teachers can breathe easy). In fact, it’s something I’m dreading. But considering how common medical errors are, compounded by how often learners make mistakes, it’s very likely that I will harm someone, perhaps seriously. My brain frames this fear two ways. … Read More



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