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Editor's Comments on 'Inspection'

 , July 29, 2016

In “Inspection,” Kian Madjedi eloquently describes the physician’s role as both welcoming listener and observant diagnostician. Are patients aware of the extent to which simple gestures – a handshake, a catch in the voice – reveal vital information about their health? As physicians, we must look for these clues and identify their significance, then translate it into understandable terms for the person before us.
Madjedi deftly weaves medical terminology into his description of an encounter with a patient, linguistically portraying the dual nature of being a provider of comfort and a scientist searching for clues. In this duality is the science of medicine but also its art. Is the sullen silence of my teenage patient simply a reflection of age, or is there something she doesn’t want to tell me? Is the baby before me crying because he wants to be held, or because something somewhere hurts?
As much as we inspect – and not only with conversation and observation, but also with lab tests and imaging – on some occasions we will not find the answer(s). Sometimes the story will remain untold. This is the risk we take when we barter trust for information. We don’t know if the speaker in Madjedi’s poem made the correct diagnosis, but we come away with something more, artistically speaking.
“Inspection” illuminates the beauty of the process – that is, how we make medicine happen. Perhaps the act of inspecting, of caring so much about a person’s told and untold stories, is part of medicine’s therapeutic potential for both doctor and patient. It’s caring enough to listen for what is unsaid that brings us closer to understanding a person – a practice that, if employed in other realms, might have therapeutic potential beyond the exam room.

Irène Mathieu