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Face to face with Ray

In the clinic and on film, an exceptional patient is a teacher without peer.

Over the last four years, I have listened to hundreds of patient stories as a medical student taking histories. Not all stories are equal in their impact, and some are so profound that one begins to see patients differently. The story of Ray has stayed with me for four years and will, I think, color my experience with every patient.I first encountered Ray in the dermatology clinic in the Yale Physicians Building. I poked my head in, greeted him, and closed the door. I stood there for what seemed an eternity, mouth agape, as I gawked at the lesions that festered on every inch of his skin. Tumors the size of golf-balls appeared to be in a sort of limbo, not sure whether to remain embedded under the skin or to...

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