Reading Response #1 – Into the Water

Khalilah Taylor

Professor Rivkin-Fish & Professor Thrailkill

ANTH 272

26 January 2020

Reading Response #1: Into the Water

“Into the Water – The Clinical Clerkships” by Katharine Treadway and Neal Chatterjee at first seemed to be an article simply discussing the lack of empathy physicians and other medical professionals possess. However, after analyzing the article and considering the alternating perspectives, tones, and shared experiences between the clinician (Katharine) and a medical student (Neal)the true symbolism of water and its connotations are made apparent.

As this article starts off, the narrator, Neal, puts readers in the perspective of a medical student during his first day of surgical clerkship. Placing us in the unnatural hospital setting and his shared uneasiness when residents discussed tragic events in a comedic manner with his readers, helps us understand the warped emotional connection between physicians and patients. Such degradation is made clear through the anecdote of the fish in the water. Because the fish experience water every day, the water has become more normalized as the residents in this environment have become more desensitized. It’s not that Neal on his first day is experiencing abnormal feelings but rather, everyone else has become unphased by the reality of the medical world. Katherine shares, in a complementary viewpoint, that the neglect physicians show their students is what makes the students numb.

These parallel perspectives reveal how we, as humans, tend to disconnect from our true emotions and feelings in order to get through the harder parts of our lives and by doing so in silence, we encourage others to do the same. The pragmatic and philosophical tone presented in this text helps us understand that acknowledging the presence of water is of true importance. Along with acknowledging,  addressing exactly how we deal with the events that cause heightened emotions is a solution that is presented in order to prevent denormalization of numbness in both the medical field and life as a whole.

Work cited

Treadway, Katharine, and Neal Chatterjee. Into the Water — The Clinical Clerkships. The New England Journal of Medicine, 31 Mar. 2011

Into The Water Reading Response

In Katharine Treadway’s and Neal Chatterjee’s scientific article, Into The Water, they both discuss the complexity of the doctor’s way of dealing with compassion, or sometimes, lack thereof, by describing to the reader of different observations made in the hospital. One of the more shocking passages is when Treadway retells the reader of what she wrote in a reflection of her first year. Within only a few paragraphs, she makes it apparent that the key to having proper compassion in the medical field is to be self-aware. She acknowledges the tragic and traumatic in detail and startlingly bluntly, never sugar coating an incident, “I have seen entirely too many people naked. I have seen 350 pounds of flesh, dead: dried red blood streaked across nude adipose, gauze, and useless EKG paper strips.” The way she describes these types of incidents such as the death of a baby “— blue, limp, quiet” or someone on an OR table, “…anesthetized, splayed, and filleted…” are so profound, and yet necessary as people outside of the medical field don’t naturally understand why a doctor would disassociate themselves from the people they treat. It’s almost like looking at gruesome pictures of warfare, people don’t necessarily want to see it, but how can people learn from their mistakes (and victories) without seeing their consequences. While this passage as a whole tells us how doctors should act in terms of compassion and association with their patients, I think it is important to note, that we as the reader should also take on some of this responsibility. We tend to hide from the grim, grotesque things of reality, while doctors are forced to live with it every day, when perhaps, we, the reader, should become more compassionate towards the doctors who sometimes treat us.