The professor stood before the class,
his body bent, for time has had its way.
His voice, hushed, drew them to him.
Its strength reflective of his day.
The student tells the patient’s story,
as she sits alone within the hall.
The professor asks a point or two.
Overhead a voice seeks those on call.
The student pleased as to her mark,
directs attention to the screen
where hang the sheets of celluloid;
scans there waiting to be seen.
The professor frowns, perplexed he
asks, is this the path we take to find
the nature of this patient’s illness;
no physical exam of any kind.
The student now herself confused.
What else is there to seek, to find?
I’ve told her story, you see the films
which clearly show the lumbar spine.
How is it now, he quietly asks,
we can plan the details of her care
having failed to inspect the patient
for signs of illness lurking there?
Of concern to me, our descent to this:
we relate that which the patient said;
then, ignoring wherein the illness lies
we sift these shadows for clues instead.
In shadows it seems we have lost our way,
the lure of technology perverts our quest.
Since it is the body that projects the pain,
probe it as taught; then, if need be, the test.
Clark Watts, MD
(written after listening to surgeons give the
medical history then proceed to the films
to justify surgery, September 2009)