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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Short White Coat: A Jell-O mold of the brain

Short White Coat is a blog written by second-year Harvard medical student Ishani Ganguli. Ishani's posts appear here, as part of White Coat Notes. E-mail Ishani at shortwhitecoat@gmail.com.

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As we head into our final weeks of neurology -- the first specialty we’ve really been exposed to -- we’re starting to hear the stump speeches of doctors eager to proselytize on behalf of their chosen field.

Neurology can be as difficult as, well, brain surgery, but the field is also elegant in its simplicity, as said proselytizers are quick to remind us. Despite recent leaps in our ability to image brains, the reflex hammers and lightly probing fingertips of yesteryear still take us most of the way to a diagnosis. And neurological deficits can be picked up in the subtlest changes of a patient’s gait or speech.

What does it take to fill the shoes of the gray-templed, bow-tied neurologists who guide our learning, besides a House, MD-like insight? It helps to have a knack for impersonating these subtle signs, at least when imparting the nuances to medical students. Besides being instructive, such variety shows can be entertaining -- especially on video, at two times the normal speed.

A sense of humor doesn’t hurt, either (we were urged to eat a Jell-O mold of the brain as some form of early initiation to the field). Neurology must also take a particular brand of fortitude -- most diseases that affect this system are drawn out, debilitating, and irreversible.

Would I be a good fit, down the line? It’s something to think about.

Posted by Ishani Ganguli at 01:32 PM
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