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Editor's Comments on 'On the Penetrating Capacity of Ultrasound'

 , January 17, 2018

Inarguably, the advent of medical imaging has proven to be one of the most important advancements of medicine, particularly for means of non-invasive diagnostics. A quick x-ray picture, a brief run through a scanning machine, or a sweep of a probe can, in minutes or even mere seconds, identify underlying pathologies and maladies hidden within our bodies. Publication after publication continues to demonstrate new data and analyses which aim to maximize, fine tune, and perfect these amazing machines and the images they generate. We are able to essentially visualize the internal body in such detail that our once opaque skin is now becoming an ever more transparent layer. As healthcare professionals, in both training and in practice, we are learning to read and incorporate these imaging modalities as means for our overall approach to patient care.

However, at its essence, the images created by such technology are simply that – images: still pieces of objective, complex data in need of human analysis and interpretation.

In her piece “On the Penetrating Capacity of Ultrasound,” Sarah Bugg, quite literally, exposes herself in this reflection of her experience as a standardized patient for an ultrasound demonstration. Ms. Bugg’s narrative persona immediately invites the reader to be transported back in time and join her in the classroom. We are made bystanders simultaneously privy to both the events of the class and her innermost thoughts – a duality artfully created in this short story and critical to the appreciation of the piece. Allow yourself to be mesmerized instantly by the author’s enchanting, vivid imagery which is both as precise as the ultrasound she explores and, yet, delightfully more colorful than the “salt-and-pepper” layers on the monitor. The frankness, humor, and realness of the author’s interwoven commentary provide an intense, humanistic relatability as she explores such powerful themes as vulnerability, transparency, the need for contextualization, and the human experience.

Without giving too much away, much like the curves and twists of our body’s organs, Ms. Bugg’s story takes an important turn which marks a crucial stop along the journey to becoming a physician. Her reflection and universalization of an experience many would otherwise write off as simply one of several daily medical school lectures should not go unnoticed and, in fact, should be lauded and widely shared. Thank you, Ms. Bugg, for your message – so eloquently and clearly stated in the final line of your piece.

Herbert Rosenbaum