“You can tell it’s a PAS stain because it makes the edges bright pink.” the boy with the bright hazel eyes whispered to me.
The professor was mumbling and I had been frustrated already for an hour, reduced to doodling in the margins and distractedly looking at my black faux leather jacket. His comment to me was surprising. “How do you know?” I whispered back.
He grinned widely up to his horn-rimmed glasses and messy dark hair like he knew a fantastic secret. “That’s all I did when I did research. Hot pink every day. How can I forget?”
I stifled a giggle. “You got me there, man.” With that, we made introductions to each other and he gave me pointers on identifying other microanatomy stains.
H was brilliant at microanatomy and brilliant with people. Once he knew your name, he’d always smile and greet you. And not a fake one, always the kind that went to his eyes.
Today, the sky is gray and the wind whistles low through the center of campus. I stand there, surrounded by my classmates. We are all dressed in our white coats. Together, we bow our heads. We are silent.
A few days ago, I was studying for the upcoming respiratory system exam with three of my classmates. Books, laptops, and coffee cups are strewn over long beech tables. A crumpled plastic bag that once contained chocolate crowns my pile of markers and pens. Microanatomy slides are being projected onto the white board.
“What is that?” P asked, squinting at the mess of cells on screen.
J looked at the image quickly. “Esophageal candidiasis with a PAS stain. P, that picture’s from Wikipedia! We talked about this at our last study session!”
P tilted her head, looking at the offending slide. “How do you know it’s a PAS stain?”
“You can tell it’s a PAS stain because it makes the edges bright pink.” I said automatically.
“Oh, cool! Thanks. How’d you know that?” P asked.
I smiled a little. “Someone taught me, once.”
Every medical school class loses a few students over the years. There are many reasons. Some realize med school’s not for them. Some leave because they can’t keep going. Some are forced to leave because of events beyond their control.
One year ago, my class lost one of our own to none of the above reasons. H passed away quietly with no ceremony.
H, the class of 2015 will always keep you in our memories and we will never forget you. The good we do, the lives we save? We hope it will somehow be a fraction of all the good you would have done if you were still here. You would’ve been a great doctor. We miss you. We love you. I hope we’re making you proud.