Thursday, April 2, 2009

Last ER Ever

Even though I hadn't watched 'ER' in probably more than ten years, tonight I watched the very last episode of 'ER'. Which seemed fitting because I vividly remember watching the very first episode of 'ER'. I was a first year student in dental school and taking my basic science courses over at the medical school. At Harvard they have this really wonderful case-based system where the students are broken up into tutorial groups of about 8 people with a physician tutorial leader (my first tutorial leader was Judah Folkman who had recently won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for figuring out that tumors can grow quickly by recruiting blood vessels to grow toward them. Seriously- how humbling is that). So a case would be presented at the beginning of the week- a patient description, vital signs, symptoms, history, etc. The group would develop a list of possible diagnosis and "order" tests. The next day we would have our test results and we would discuss how this changed the possible dignosis and maybe order more tests or procedures. By the end of the week we would have worked toward the final diagnosis and there would usually be some ethical or social issue worked in there along the way.

For some reason at Harvard Medical School they like to brag that Michael Crichton was a student there... before he dropped out. Michael Crichton created 'ER' and a lot of Harvard physicians were consultants on the show. I swear the characters on the show are named after real people. There is a Peter Benton Hall in one of the teaching hospitals and I saw Kerry Weaver on a plaque in one of the conference rooms.
There was a lot of buzz about this new show coming on, so on Thurday nights a bunch of us would get together in the dorm and watch 'Friends' then 'ER'. We were a little surprised when the cases we had just discussed in tutorial started showing up on 'ER'. How fun was it to watch the show, then someone would shout at the TV, "That guy drank antifreeze" or "That kid wasn't abused; he has osteogenesis imperfecta" or we would just laugh when the actors mispronounced the medical terms. After I graduated and started residency, I stopped watching because it made me feel too tense and anxious. Tonight was no different-

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