Many doctors and nurses become doctors and nurses to help people.

I didn't. I did not want to be a doctor from age 9 the way many do.

I start writing poetry at age 9 and that is it. Writing is most important and writing poetry is the highest calling. Poetry distills words, magical words, wordplay to an essence, a core, a song. Even then, two people reading those same words will not agree on the meaning.

Poetry is it for me. But as a child, I decide that adults are untrustworthy, though loving. They can love you and leave you with someone else the next day, no warning, no explanation. I have four rounds of this before age three. So I am poet, but I need independence, no dependence on anyone if I can avoid it AND I want to have children.

My mother is an artist, independently wealthy at a poverty level. I don't understand much of that, but I get in trouble when I say she is a housewife. NO SHE ISN'T. SHE IS AN ARTIST. I wonder why she isn't a poet, since that is best, but I don't say housewife again. By housewife I mean that she doesn't leave the house to work. She says that art is first. House and wife are secondary. I try to figure out what housewife means to her and clearly that is not something I should want to be. Girl on a float is out as career choice. My father sort of goes to work and sort of doesn't. He is in school. He is in school for a very long time. Graduate school. Mathematics. My parents are very weird when we live in Johnson City, New York. It's all art, music, grad students and almost no television. Having seen two friends homes, I know better than to invite the friends to my house in junior high.

I need a job that earns money. My father is in graduate school and my mother's two brothers have PhDs and my maternal grandfather is an MD, a professor, a psychiatrist. We don't spend much time with my father's family. My father's grandfather is a pressman and runs a newspaper press. Lead type back in the day. My paternal aunts play organ and are married to engineers.

I assume for a while that it will be a PhD. But my father doesn't finish his. I ask why and he says "I got bored." It's a bit risky, what if I am like him? Also the word from the PhDs in college, the ones I know in the Zoology Department, are working on the degree for seven years and then can't find a job. Publish or perish.

I end up working at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda in a lab. That's when I choose medicine and primary care. I need to study people: for my poems. I don't want to study crazy people, I want to know why the so-called normal people do crazy stuff to each other. Why do marriages break down? Why to people shift from love to hate?

I don't think of medicine as helping people. I think of it as seeing the person in that moment, digging out what information I can, and offering tools for them to help themselves. I give them tools. They choose whether to use them or not. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they are in the precontemplative state. They are thinking about doing something but they are not doing it.

"Did you get the glucometer?"


"Have you checked your blood sugar?"

Sheepish look. "No."

"Why not?"

"It's still in the box."

"Bad Patient." I say. I get surprise, then a smile from my patient. "I need Bad Patient stickers. Did you bring the box?"


"Do you mind if I open it?"


So we open the box, look at the instructions and try it out. "This one is different from my clinic one. They are all a little different." I am clumsy with it. But it works. Hooray! Now they can mess around with it at home, now that it is out of the box.

I don't help people. I offer an opinion, perspective, ideas and tools for people to help themselves. Then they have to decide. Often the person doesn't remember WHY we scheduled the follow up visit. Because I was worried about their blood pressure, their blood sugar, they were depressed, they were trying to lose weight.... Have they?

Sometimes I see someone I haven't seen in a year or more. "Is you stomach better?"


"Last time you were here you had stomach pain. Is it gone?"

The person tries to remember. "Yes. It's gone."

"What helped it?"

The person frowns. "I don't remember."

"Okay." I say. Don't know if they tried what I said or not.... glad they are better....

Iron Noder: Tokyo Drift 15