A physician recounts the experience of caring for a small child with an incurable disease. The father brings in a bright stuffed dinosaur for the child and despite all expectations, the child opens one eye and reaches for the toy, then lapses back into a coma. The family and physicians cry together. A week later the child dies. The narrator uses this example to argue that it is the intensity of a physician's experiences and the privilege of being a part of them, rather than whether or not the experience is happy, that gives medicine its meaning and satisfaction.


This essay is powerful and moving. It helps students begin to articulate what will be meaningful for them in medicine. It also helps them begin to understand that a patient's dying does not always represent failure, and to recognize that powerful emotions are not something they need to avoid feeling.

Primary Source

A Piece of My Mind: A Collection of Essays from the Journal of the American Medical Association



Place Published

New York




Bruce B. Dan & Roxanne K. Young

Page Count