Monkeypox and Reader's Digest

May 25, 2022

When the news headlines and even my YouTube feed started blowing up this week about Monkeypox, I had a flashback to my second year of medical school. The memory had nothing to do with microbiology or the pathogenesis of the orthopox virus. It was a story shared by my pathology professor, and though probably fictitious, it is nonetheless amusing and relatable. 

Dr. Thorne was the only doctor in a small rural Maine town for the latter half of the twentieth century. One day, shortly after noon, his wife, Mary, was surprised to hear him enter the house and rush up the stairs to the bathroom.

“Is everything okay, dear? I thought you had a full day at the office,” she inquired.

“Yes, yes. I’m fine. Have you seen the Reader’s Digest?” he shouted down to her.

“It should be there on the shelf,” she offered.

“No, that’s last month’s issue” he grumbled as he moved on to search the bedroom. “Ah, here it is,” he announced as he headed for the front door. “I haven't read it yet, and Mrs. Winslow is coming for her appointment in half an hour!”

“Mrs. Winslow?” Mary asked. “I’m sure she has her own subscription.”

“Precisely,” said Dr. Thorne. “She always comes in with the strangest symptoms, and the only way I have any clue what she is worried about is by knowing what rare disease was featured in the latest issue!”

Chances are good that none of us will ever see a case of Monkeypox in our careers. But chances are greater that there will be patients who will be offering up their Monkeypox symptoms and concerns. All we can hope for is that after a careful listen, a thorough examination, and perhaps a little touch of old-school Doctor Thorne reassurance, we will relieve our patients' worries, and maintain their trust until the next headline hits the newsstands.

Fun fact: The first issue of Reader’s Digest was published 100 years ago on February 5, 1922, and it can still be found in 23 countries worldwide.

Regards,

Eric Kropp, MD
NHMS President

Please send comments or questions to eric.kropp@nhms.org.