In medicine, the History of Present Illness is a synopsis of the events that preceded and contributed to a person's illness. It includes things like a person's chronic conditions, any recent ailments or surgeries, and a description of their symptoms. It is typically a few sentences. In a perfect world, it would fill many pages.
Too often, when a person is transformed into a patient, she quickly becomes a jumble of diagnoses - broken parts in need of fixing. We lose sight of what makes this person human: Who was she before she got sick? What kind of work did she do? What kinds of things were important to her? What made her life worth living? When it comes to patients, there is always more than meets the eye; their life story is guaranteed to be richer than what makes it into their medical chart.
History of Present Illness is dedicated to the idea of the patient as a whole person. We offer people a chance to tell their story the way they want to tell it, without abbreviation or interruption. Because patients are so much more than their diagnoses, and their stories deserve to be heard.
If you are interested in sharing your story, please reach out! We would love to hear from you. Your experience does not need to be a miracle cure, a one-in-a-million diagnosis, or a Grey's Anatomy-worthy drama - we welcome all stories. We're simply looking for people who had (or have) an illness that impacted their lives in a meaningful way.
about the author
Hi. I'm Eric.
I'm an Internal Medicine physician. I live in San Diego, CA with my wife, toddler and dachshund.
I care for many hundreds of patients a year. At best, I get to talk to them for a couple of minutes at a time. I created History of Present Illness to try to recapture what it is that makes the practice of medicine special: an exchange of stories between people. Authentic connections between doctor and patient are becoming rarer in our current fast-paced healthcare climate, where the focus is on ever-increasing efficiency and productivity. Often, the greatest reward comes from slowing down and taking some time to just listen.
I am grateful to the patients who have trusted me with their stories, many of which are highly personal. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have enjoyed hearing them.
- Eric Beam, MD
* Why a cairn? The cairn, a stack of rocks balanced atop one another, serves as a trail marker—an international symbol guiding travelers to their destination. It is laid by those who came before in order to show the way for whoever traverses the same path in the future. So, too, these stories might ease the weary journey of medical illness, providing a map and serving as a reminder that, despite the solitude of the trail, no one goes it alone.