18 Feb 2010


J. D. Salinger passed away last month. His best known novel was The Catcher in the Rye.

The main character, Holden Caulfield, was a boy expelled from a preparatory school. The story was about his observation and thoughts while he wandered in New York for three days, not wanting to return to his parents yet. Disgusted by the adult world, he was considered an icon of teenage rebellion and confusion.

At the end of the story, Holden had a long discussion with his younger sister Phoebe. He pictured a scenario where many children were playing some games in a huge rye field next to a cliff. His dream work would be a catcher in the rye, saving children from falling down the cliff. In essence, he wanted to stop children from becoming ugly and superficial adults.

When I was a medical student, a local doctor wrote a very popular book called I am an Intern. Overall, the book was informative. However, one chapter depressed me. The author thought that senior doctors talked about caring for patients only because they had passed all the examinations and had less workload. This can be a slippery slope phenomenon. If one can accept not treating patients by heart because he has to prepare for examinations, he will have even more excuses later. Administrative work, specialty duties, research, you name it.

I feel warm whenever I see young doctors and students chatting with patients and really listening to them. I may not be a good catcher, but please, don’t fall down the cliff.

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