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“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Sunday, March 27, 2005
    Once Upon an Easter

    I finished residency more than ten years ago, so I think it's safe for me to tell you this story.

    Way back when I was a third-year resident in San Francisco, my brother had just moved to SF a few months before and we had decided to attend Easter services at Grace Cathedral. (I was what is politely known as a "lapsed Christian" at the time. This would have been my first Easter church service in several years. My brother, well, I won't speak for him.) I was up and getting ready when my phone rang - at 7:30 am. I assumed it was my brother and answered. It was not my brother; it was my chief resident. We will call him Bill. Here is the conversation verbatim.


    "Hi, Alice."

    "Hey, Bill, what are you calling so early for?" (beat) "Oh, shit."

    "Alice, I need your help. [Resident X] has called in sick and I really need someone to cover today."

    "Look, Bill, I know you need help but isn't there anybody else you can call? It's Easter Sunday, I'm supposed to go to church with my brother and this is the third time you've called me in this year!" (Fact. It was.)

    "Listen to me. If you will help me out, I will see that you get an extra week's vacation this year." (Totally illegal and against all the rules of the National Board of Internal Medicine. We are talking Animal House territory here.)

    (Two-second pause) "Okay."

    I said not another word, called my brother and canceled, showed up for work and gave a hundred and ten percent that Easter Sunday. Bill was as good as his word. I got that extra week. He told me later, "Alice, one thing I've always admired about you is that you know the value of a bribe."

    And I knew what he meant. I just grinned and told him that was why we got along so well. I still cackle every time I think about that episode (and I still haven't told my father to this day, though I'm sure he'd get a kick out of it). It was probably the most rebellious thing I've ever done.



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