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Editor's Commentary on Morning Report

 , June 16, 2019

In this evocative, beautifully written, and heart-felt piece, Shaoli Chaudhuri introduces us to a relationship that develops over a series of ICU visits between a young doctor and a critically ill older woman. She takes us on a voyage through time and space, inviting us to leave the realm of the hospital and visit Ms. Gomez’s Spain, a sensual world of bountiful red wine, tapas, and soaring churches.

Chaudhuri evokes a dream-like atmosphere. The reader, too, feels “on the heels of night shift” as we travel to the Santa Caterina Market, to Christmas in the ICU, and back to the conference room. The paper plate of fruit in the first lines echoes the berries and apples for sale, creating a link between Ms. Gomez and her doctor and knitting together these disparate times and places. “Morning Report” also serves as a sort of “Mourning Report”—an elegy to this spirited woman, her love of life, and to the bond formed between physician and patient under even the most trying of circumstances.

But Chaudhuri’s piece is as much about forgetting a patient as it is about remembering. She writes, “You forgot about her because that is the nature of your job. Or maybe, it is your nature now. It’s hard to know, and it’s hard to know if it’s reprehensible or understandable.” This passage creates a striking disconnect with the preceding paragraphs, in which Chaudhuri paints a vivid portrait of Ms. Gomez in her hospital room and invites the reader to partake in an intimate family scene: we meet her grandson, listen to Christmas carols, and participate in a present exchange. How can this person, rendered in such detail and with such emotion, be forgotten?

Ultimately, “Morning Report” speaks to the complexity of the physician-patient relationship and the transient nature of the care we provide, specifically as trainees. In days packed with procedures, conferences, and administrative tasks, how can we stave off the act of forgetting? If
those whom we have cared for die, how should we mourn? Chaudhuri offers a solution with her prose: through the act of writing, we help to preserve these memories and honor our patients past and present.

Phoebe Prioleau