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White Coat, White Cane: The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Blind Physician

by David Hartman Bernard Asbell

The woman's arthritic fingers feel gnarled and crooked, her knees lumpy rocks. But I can detect no swelling, so I press here, there, trying to rouse an inflamed spot. "What are you doing"she challenges. "You're blind!" "I'm examining you. Haven't you ever been examined by a blind doctor before?" She refuses to be humored. "That's silly. What can a blind doctor do?" "I'm not sure, but we're going to find out..." When David Hartman, blind since the age of eight, announced his intention to become a doctor, the reactions ranged from sympathy to ridicule. How could he diagnose his patients? Examine them, except by touch? Look through a microscope? Even understand what was being described? The battle lines were drawn: David and his family on one side, the schools and society on the other. But with an incredible strength of purpose, David Hartman went on to become the first blind person in over 100 years to enter medical school. What is it like to adjust to a world of darkness? David Hartman lets us know bluntly, with real emotion, insight, and humor. He had to relearn the simplest things. He had to overcome mental obstacles that were at times more formidable than the physical ones. Yet he was determined to reach beyond his difficulties to fulfill an impossible dream. His teachers were helpful, hostile, embarrassed, unsure-and in medical school he had to work twice as hard. The work had to be read to him or translated into Braille. Often he had to rely on a sighted person to confirm his diagnosis, and he needed a nurse to read the patients' charts to him. But he utilized all his other senses to achieve his greatest desire: helping to heal. His journey is a moving and inspirational story for us all.

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