Jane Thomas-Tran: the best medicine

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After all the tests, pills and procedures, the best medicine is still something that cannot be prescribed. Jane Thomas-Tran has that perspective.

I am a medical student, only months away from being a doctor, and 100% of my clinical training has been in the age of COVID. For me, hospital rooms filled with recovery cards and impatient visitors are a relic of the past.

A beloved grandfather comes to mind. On the day of his admission, he couldn’t open his eyes, he was just moaning a little. For three days he did not speak.

On the fourth day he woke up to an empty room and asked, “Where am I?

On the sixth day, her soft voice told us, “I have lived a long time. A good life.”

On the seventh day, his wife and daughter brought his dentures and hearing aid. They couldn’t enter the building due to pandemic rules. I met them outside. “It’s his room, his window, up there!” I pointed. “Wait here.”

Back in the hospital room, shouting so he could hear, “Your wife and daughter are outside your window!” He seemed confused, so I urged him to get out of bed so he could wave at them from his window.

We lifted him to his feet. He stood tottering, walked for the first time, walked to the window, and saw them below. His lips parted in a smile. His wife was jumping on the spot. After that, he got up steadily and was soon sent home.

Just a glimpse of his family was more powerful medicine – a reason to heal and live – than we could provide in the previous week of lab tests and off-formulary drug requests. While I support infection control strategies, I also wonder: how has this drug missing the smiling faces of the family affected the outcomes of our other patients?

With Perspective, I am Jane Thomas-Tran.

Jane Thomas-Tran is a fourth-year medical student at Stanford and is currently applying for pediatric residencies.

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