Summer's insufferable grip returned to St. Louis. No temperature differential between the day and evening…90 degrees and 90% humidity no matter the hour. A cloud of moisture limited activity and thought.
In three days, James would become a second year resident. He recalled a quotation from a surgical pathology textbook he read during his first week of training. “It is probable that the ability to diagnose 95 per cent of all the material received in a surgical pathology department can be acquired in a year or less. The other 5 per cent is learned over the rest of one’s professional life.*”
“Woefully inadequate!” James muttered.
He had not spoken to Nomura since the settlement. He had stopped by his office but was informed by his secretary that he had taken a two week leave of absence. James walked around the department, a well-worn path that brought him into contact with nearly every employee. He had been there a year, yet on this day, all seemed foreign. The cloud had crept into the hospital. Familiar faces registered no names. Disembodied voices echoed diagnoses and calls for frozen sections.
Dan left for his new position in Wisconsin. He left James with a momento, a CD of Wes Montgomery's Movin' On. Haas submitted her letter of resignation to Morelli. The scuttled contract between ULS and Memorial was the new gossip of the hospital.
Deanna left a small stuffed bear next to his microscope with a note depicting a smile and a heart surrounding the words, "Thinking of you!" James touched the top of the bear's head and sat back in his chair. He closed his eyes. His father's steps approached. What do I do now, James asked? He opened his eyes and looked around his office. He touched the microscope and turned on the halogen light, illuminating the eyepiece.
James left his office and exited the hospital. The heat gripped him as his shirt clung to his body. The heat was no different than the Philippines. Yet, it never released him at the end of the day like it did back home. A small crowd of men and women dressed in short white coats were gathered outside the medical library, a short distance away; it was the new interns and medical students. New pathology interns would soon be pushing glass. Now, he would be expected to teach these new doctors. He would become the doctor's doctor.
The doctor's doctor. The words rolled off his lips as easily as a new cool breeze ran through his shirt. James smiled as he turned to return to the hospital. His sign out was beginning in a few minutes, he didn't want to be late.
*Walter Coulson, M.D. Preface to the First Edition of Surgical Pathology Lippincott 1978.
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