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Every month More Voices invites readers to contribute short nonfiction prose pieces of 40 to 400 words on a healthcare theme.



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Alan Blum

Editor's Note: This week, Pulse once again presents sketches by Alan Blum, a family physician who for years has been jotting down visual impressions and snippets of conversation as he cares for patients. These sketches go back as far as 35 years, representing patients who have died or with whom he lost touch because of geographic relocation. These drawings are from the recently published book Gentle Men (Firebrand Press).

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About the author:

Alan Blum is a professor of family medicine and holds the Gerald Leon Wallace endowed chair in family medicine at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, where he also directs the Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society. In 1977 he co-founded Doctors Ought to Care, an international physicians' organization that pushed organized medicine to become more active in combating the smoking pandemic and the tobacco industry. As a result of these efforts, Dr. Blum received the Surgeon General's Medallion from Dr. C. Everett Koop. Alan Blum's sketches and stories have been published in Literature and Medicine, The Pharos, JAMA, Hippocrates, Emory Medicine and The Color Atlas of Family Medicine.

About the sketches:

"These sketches were all unplanned and were done with ballpoint pen on whatever paper I happened to have in my hand at the time, from prescription pads and paper towels to the wrappers of latex gloves or sterile gauze. As a medical student at Emory, I began adding sketches to my notes as a way to spend a bit more time with the patient, to focus more closely on the patient's expression and to try to capture the essence of our encounter. I learned the importance of listening closely to patients from my father, a general practitioner in Queens, New York. His office was in our home, where every afternoon the living room became the waiting room. A central role of a personal physician is to identify the patient's fears and to try to allay anxiety. There's a patient in all of us, waiting to get out."