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The Tiny Doctor

Saturday, January 14, 2006

I was at my mom's house for dinner tonight (she makes amazing chopped liver) and she reminded me of something that happened to me while I was a resident at Johns Hopkins that was a little odd. It was one of those moments where I was really glad I was in "unflappable doctor mode" or I probably would have burst out laughing, or run from the room in embarrassment.

So, I was a finishing third-year ophthalmology resident at Johns Hopkins, and I had a Hopkins 4th-year medical student with me. That wasn't odd in itself, but this particular student was a midget. She'd been written up in the university paper and such for having been such an awesome medical student and not having let her short stature get in the way of her dreams for a medical career. She was thinking strongly of becoming an ophthalmologist, and I had to hand it to her, because she had a little step-stool she would climb up on, and look in the patients' eyes, and then get down. So she had to do everything the other students were doing, but with the added onus of being three feet tall and having to lug around a step-ladder.

I should mention that I generally introduced finishing medical students to patients as "My medical student, Doctor So-and-So", because I think it is important for medical students to get used to having the title. It is a little embarrassing when you first have to refer to yourself as "Doctor" and I like the kids to get used to it before they have to start going through the hell of internship. So, while she wouldn't have the actual medical degree for another 2 months, I referred to her as "Doctor So-and-So" (not her real name).

Anyway, she was working up patients with me, and I left her to finish some paperwork while I walked into an exam room to look at a 12-year-old girl. This kid was a wild creature. Completely unmanageable. And her mother was an obvious addict, and looked stoned, and was just staring into space while her daughter the holy terror ran rampant around the room. Great. So I finally got this girl somewhat settled down in the chair and I was sitting next to her checking her vision. Then, in walked the tiny medical student, in her white coat, holding her ophthalmoscope. When the girl saw the student come in, she pushed me aside and shrieked, "OOOHHHHH!!!" in a delighted high-pitched squeal that you would only normally hear from a young girl upon seeing a pink unicorn with sparkles.

The girl leapt out of the exam chair, ran over to the medical student, and picked her up and hugged her like a dolly.

Of course, the mother was still staring into space, oblivious.

So, in as calm a voice as I could muster, I said to this girl words I never had to say before, and hopefully will never have to say again. I said:

"Please put down the doctor."

Do I need to add anything to this story?

No, I didn't think so.