It was spring. My medical school class, two years along in our five-and-a-half year endeavor, had earned the “medicinae kandidat” degree. We were now worthy of leaving the basic sciences and research center on the outskirts of town and starting our preparatory clinical, “propedeutic” semester at the University Hospital. In Sweden, at that time, we used a lot of Latin words and phrases. Crohn’s disease was Morbus Crohn, chart notes listed physical exam findings by Latin names for the bodily organs: Cor for the heart, Pulm(ones) for the lungs, Hepar for the liver, etc.
Uppsala Academic Hospital was an imposing campus, with several tall, white towers, housing the most modern wards, laboratories and operating theaters. We were relegated to a pink stucco building that housed the old tuberculosis clinic.
The physical exam course was taught by a couple of older pulmonologists. At first they struck many of us as relics from a bygone era, but as the course went on, our respect grew. These unassuming physicians could percuss a patient’s chest wall and describe in detail what the x-ray would look like, they made us feel the tip of the spleen by turning the patient on his right side, they measured jugular venous pulsations and pedal pulses.
Sometimes we had real patients with remarkably abnormal findings to examine, but we often were charged with examining each other for assessment of normal physical exam findings.
My partner for the Lymphatic System module was Sven Björk, a slow-talking kid from the very north of Sweden. He had jet black, completely straight hair and a broad face with eyes set wide apart. He was part Same, the native, reindeer-herding nomadic population from north of the Arctic Circle.