Between Their Loved Home and the War’s Desolation

The human cost of war, and those who pay it

by Alan B. Sanderson, MD

Vietnam was a hard war to come home from. My dad was told to change into civilian clothes as soon as possible after the flight home in order to avoid some of the abuse that returning Vietnam veterans were put through by an ungrateful public. He went on with his life, never mentioning to anyone the fact that he had spent a year overseas in the army. In the mid 1980’s he saw an announcement and invitation for a special dinner for Vietnam veterans, hosted by the Vietnamese refugee population in the state where we lived. Immediately he was skeptical and didn’t want to attend, thinking that there must be some sort of deception involved, but my mom insisted that he go and take the whole family with him. Attending that dinner was an intense emotional experience for him, as he had been home from the war for over a decade and this was the first time anyone had thanked him for serving. Because of this I make it a point to thank all of the veterans who come to my clinic.

There is a long tradition of military service in my family. Sylvanus Sanderson fought in the American Revolution. Henry Sanderson marched in the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican-American War. My great-grandpa George Sanderson fought in World War I, and his son Ivan served in World War II. My dad served in Vietnam. All of these veterans in my family were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with the exception of Sylvanus, who died around the time the Church was organized (and before photography was widely available).

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Persuasion and Choice

Thoughts on brain plasticity and the doctrine of agency

by Alan B. Sanderson, MD

persuasion and choice - title.pngI once received a letter from a woman informing me that her son, my patient, had died. Her letter was written to thank me for the way I had spoken to him about his addiction during his appointment in my clinic. She wrote:

“I know you only saw my son once but he felt so comfortable with you. He said I think he really cares for me and will help me get better. (sic)

“I was impressed that you treated him with such compassion, not judging him by his alcoholic past. You saw the person!”

This letter saddened me because my patient’s death was unexpected, but it also made my day. Seeing addiction as a medical illness instead of as a moral failing is important to me, and I love learning that I made a positive difference in someone’s life.

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The Operating Room and the Temple

The temple is like the operating room; it has a special purpose, and special preparation is required to enter it.

by Alan B. Sanderson, MD

operating room and temple.png

On the first day of my medical school surgery rotation I set foot inside of an operating room (OR) to participate in a surgery for the first time. The patient had a rectal tumor, which my team was cutting out. She was positioned in stirrups on the table, and I had a front row seat to watch the work of the surgeons as I stood between her legs holding a retractor. I had seen human anatomy before in the cadaver lab, but I had never seen a living person’s bowels before that day. A loop of her intestines was hanging out of the surgical incision, and I could see its slow, squirming peristalsis movements. There was also blood, which we never saw in the cadaver lab because embalmed corpses have long since stopped bleeding.

After a short time I started to feel lightheaded. This was a familiar feeling for me, as I have a condition called vasovagal syncope which has caused me to pass out many times after receiving shots, experiencing minor injuries, or giving blood. Standing in the operating room that day I tried to fight against it, but when it became clear to me that I was going to faint I decided that it would be less embarrassing to speak up and let the surgeons know that I had to sit down than it would be to pass out and possibly fall forward into the sterile surgical field.

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Depositions and Testimonials

I tried it, and it worked for me

by Alan B. Sanderson, MD

This week I had to testify in a court case, and it got me thinking about the various uses and forms of the word “testimony.”

Legal Testimony

Depositions and TestimonialsIn a legal setting, the word “testimony” refers to statements made by a witness under oath. This may be done in a court of law, or in a deposition. A legal testimony for a doctor involves discussing memories about an episode of patient care, and these tend to be episodes where something bad happened to the patient.

Testifying in a legal case is an experience which every doctor is likely to have before getting too far into their career, no matter how good of a doctor you are, how conscientious you are, or how much you care about and try to help your patients. It is not a very pleasant experience to be scrutinized in this way, and it is hard not to practice defensive medicine afterwards. The paranoid thought that every patient might want to sue you for malpractice can be rather damaging to the doctor-patient relationship and to the medical decision making process, so I try not to think about it very much. This may be an ostrich’s approach to the problem, but I would rather focus on the task of trying to do what is right and building consensus with patients. Continue reading

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5 Things About the Human Body

5 things

The human body is a marvel of design, one of God’s greatest gifts to his children, and a gift that keeps on giving.

by Alan B. Sanderson, MD

Our Creator has given us instructions about how to take care of and use our bodies. Over the years, in ancient and modern revelations, he has warned us of dangers and pointed us towards better practices. Although our mortal bodies are designed to wear out and die, ending our lives on earth, our bodies will be a part of our eternal existence after the resurrection. This post will provide a quick overview of God’s teachings on five subjects related to the human body. Continue reading

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Questions in the Book of Mormon

Awareness of the use of questions in the Book of Mormon aids the understanding of several passages, and provides a model for effective use of questions in gospel teaching.

by Alan B. Sanderson, MD

Questions in the Book of MormonA few months ago I was leading a discussion in a Teacher Council Meeting about how to use questions effectively while teaching. I asked each person in the room to find a scripture where someone used a question while teaching the gospel, figuring that this would be a fairly straightforward exercise. Many people in the scriptures, and especially Jesus Christ, the Master Teacher, used questions extensively in their teaching, and I could think of several example passages. However, this was a difficult exercise for many of the people in the group, who struggled to find a passage containing a question. After a few days of pondering on this experience, I decided that I would study the Book of Mormon, looking specifically at the questions and marking them all with a colored pencil.

This study was inspired by President Thomas S. Monson’s final General Conference address, where he urged the members of the Church to study the Book of Mormon with new intensity. He said:

“My dear associates in the work of the Lord, I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives.” (from “The Power of the Book of Mormon,” April 2017)

President Russell M. Nelson responded to this challenge by making “lists of what the Book of Mormon is, what it affirms, what it refutes, what it fulfills, what it clarifies, and what it reveals. Looking at the Book of Mormon through these lenses has been an insightful and inspiring exercise! I recommend it to each of you.” (from “The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be Like without It?,” October 2017)

My response to President Monson’s challenge to was to make a list of all of the questions asked in the Book of Mormon. I expected that reading the book this way would give me a new perspective on several passages, and it turns out that it did! In this article I will summarize what I learned. Continue reading

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Questions in the Book of Mormon: Supplementary Materials

This page contains supplementary materials for “Questions in the Book of Mormon.” Please see the other post for more information. Continue reading

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