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Resident Regrets Snap Judgment of Patient

Dr. Katrina Firlik was the first woman admitted into the neurosurgery residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Her recent book, Another Day in the Frontal Lobe, provides a glimpse into the training of a brain surgeon. In one chapter she shares a story from the last year of her residency—a time when she was already becoming jaded to the tragedies of neurological devastation:

I walked into yet another examining room … a brand-new consult from out of town: 18-years-old, cerebral palsy, spasticity. Okay, okay, I've seen this before, I just need to get a good history before my attending walks in. Efficiency is key. I looked at the patient for a second: very skinny, special wheelchair, arms contracted, head support in place, mouth hung open. It was clear I wasn't going to get the story from him, so I turned to the parents, my back toward the patient, and started to take down the history. …
[When my mentor walked in], I cringed. … He sat down on the examining table, the only seat left in the cramped room. After introducing himself, he surveyed the compact scene—the patient, the parents—and then focused his gaze back on the patient. After what seemed like several, almost uncomfortably quiet seconds, he looked the patient in the eye and asked, "So, when did you graduate from high school?" The young man's face lit up like I had no idea it could.
My mentor had noticed something I had missed. The patient was wearing a large high-school ring, so large that it looked a little silly on his bony finger. His body, far more than his mind, had borne the brunt of his cerebral palsy. He was a proud, beaming high-school graduate, who used a specialized computer to help him communicate. For the remainder of the visit I sat in the corner, duncelike, humbled by the enormity of this ring now staring me in the face.

We make snap judgments everyday. Many are innocuous, dealing with the routines of life. But God is always speaking, especially in our everyday routines. When we pre-judge another person and assume we know their story, choosing not to listen to their verbal and non-verbal communication, we make the saddest mistake of all. It's so easy to view people as a statistic and not as a person for whom Christ died.

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