Essay

Making a better doctor, and better patients

After Hurricane Katrina, a day at a convention center in Texas provided lessons in dignity and sympathy.

What exactly did I think I was getting myself into? As I approached the Austin Convention Center’s loading dock, which was swarming with people, it felt like an enormous hospital—a hospital not only for the sick but also for the weary-hearted. I had come simply to see whether I could help other evacuees; I didn’t expect them to teach me a lesson in clinical medicine.I had been living in New Orleans for only six days before leaving town. I never got the chance to start at Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Along with my landlord and his family, I rode out Hurricane Katrina in Houma, La., a predominantly Cajun town southwest of New Orleans. I awoke the morning after the storm, surprised that...

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