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The Principal Clinical Year 1968
By Richard E. Burney, MD
 Like the ENT/Ophthy/Derm rotation, Neurology was 3-weeks in length. Three classmates and I were assigned to Mass General. It was autumn in New England, the most beautiful time of year in the Northeast. School occupied 6 days of the week; on Sundays we played touch football.
By this time, after 10 months of the PCY, the luster of “pitching in on the wards” to take care of patients had worn off. The rotations that mattered, for me anyway, were over; I had other things to deal with. This is reflected in my journal.
Sunday, October 27, 1968
Neurology at the General is going to be alright. A minimum of scut work, a large amount of free time, a modicum of instruction. If it were earlier in the year, I would be disappointed, but I’m no longer so anxious to pitch in on the ward, because I’m tired, and because I have enough student-type commitments that I like being a student.
In case you have ever wondered about sources of humor for satirical medical student shows, on Neurology they were all around us, and evoked both amusement and disdain.
The week got off to a shaky start when the senior resident, JL, a classic turkey, spent 5 minutes on rounds valiantly trying to save his honor and pride by proving that the bilateral extensor plantar responses which the visit, Dr. Winkler, had just elicited to the satisfaction of the other 6 people on rounds, were in fact flexor. He couldn’t. What is disappointing is that the visit tolerated his childish behavior, in effect condoned it, and that this kind of behavior has, in some ways, gotten him to where he is.
JL tends to be effete, the polished roundsman who never lets a minor slip go uncorrected, and stubborn enough to argue any little point until the opposition gives way in unspoken disgust.
The other folks are SM, the intern, a friendly but narrow, compulsive type from Hopkins; PC, rotating from neurosurgery, a good man, easy-going and willing to teach; and BW, JAR in Neurology, very much like the Senior except perhaps dumber.
On Monday morning Dave Bennett arrived late, and we all gave a sigh of relief when we saw him because it meant every 4th rather than every 3rd night on call.
I spend Monday afternoon reading (Derek) Denny- Brown’s pamphlet on the neurological exam ~ an
excellent little volume ~ and working on internship (application) forms.
Obligations outside of the PCY now assumed a higher priority. As Secretary of the Boylston Society, I was responsible for ordering imported beer and good cigars for the meetings, and thus had a vested interest in the Society having a successful year.
Monday night we again had over 40 people for
the Boylston Society. Bill Burns talked about
theories and facts in viral oncology and there was
a lively discussion. Boylston is off to a good start.
I am, however, less impressed by George Cahill (endocrinologist famous for research in diabetes at the Joslin Clinic). He doesn’t really take part. He’s a funny kind of aristocrat, much more scientist than humanist.
Tuesday, several classmates and I all walked over to Durgin-Park for lunch, something we will be doing fairly often no doubt. Late in the afternoon was “Brain Cutting,” the conference at which the true neurological personality blossoms in all its’ sweet-smelling splendor. It was there that I learned that our Senior is but a flower in a large bouquet. Dr. Edward P. Richardson presides, with C. Miller Fisher at his left hand. A case is read in excruciating detail and then Dr. Richardson picks a victim from among the junior staff to give a discussion, in as much conjecture-filled detail as possible. During the discussion, fleeting glances and secret smiles punctuate the discusser’s discomfiture. As he squirms and stammers, Dr. Richardson, whom some say suffers narcolepsy with cataplexy, dozes. Then Dr. Fisher gives his somber, careful, non-committal view, and just about then I left, followed closely by Bryan (Arling) and Rick (Tuffli). None of us could take it.
I went to my first (Harvard Medical) Chorus rehearsal of the year: very few men and fairly easy music; and then to Symphony (without supper). We parked just opposite the stage door, a space guarded by a little sawhorse until I moved it.
Charles Wilson conducted (pretty good), and the Smetana (Bohemia’s fields, etc.) and Dvorak 8th Symphony were quite good. I may get to like these Czech(composer)s yet.
Wednesday I was on duty, a pretty relaxed time. The admission I worked up was a 51-year-old negro male with low tension glaucoma (presumptive) in for r/o neurological disease. I got a full night’s sleep over in the Parkman (Building), the house officers’ (sleeping)
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Washtenaw County Medical Society BULLETIN JANUARY / FEBRUARY / MARCH 2020









































































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