Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Perfect Student


Hannah Rose told me many times that she was the "perfect student": doing everything the teachers asked in an overly thorough way. She felt thinking independently only came to her after a professor in graduate school rightfully, in her view, called her a "silly little girl" (lucky he he did this 30 years ago). This occurred when she was doing a presentation on Bach and the professor pointed out how she had stumbled on a very important question. My perfect student then continued with her pedantic report at which point the professor stopped presentation with the above exclamation and told her not to go on. This was a life-changing episode. I ask you, would this happen today? Are we too afraid to correct?

I recently read an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine roughly three years ago[1] recounting in first person singular an event that happened on an airplane to the author. A passenger coded. The author, a neurologist, and his wife, a hospitalist, began resuscitation assisted by an AED, and an Ambu bag, and other equipment. Three other physicians, passengers, an oncologist, a surgeon,  and an anesthesiologist, rapidly volunteered to help. A dang good code team.

After 25 minutes, despite the efforts of, and in the opinion of, these highly qualified physicians, the man was dead. They turned to his wife and informed her that further efforts would be useless. They called the code. At this point in time, the stewardess informed the physicians present that airline policy insisted that CPR be continued until the plane landed and that she and the other flight attendants would take over from five board-certified physicians.