Dr. Meigs pursed his lips. “You have to at least try.” He laboriously explained to Shaman how to hold the instrument to his ear. But Shaman could only shake his head. “I’m sorry,” said Professor Meigs.
An exam in medical practice was imminent. Each student had to examine a patient with a stethoscope and make a diagnosis. It was clear that Shaman would fail this test.
On a cold morning he went on a long walk, thickly wrapped in a coat, scarf and gloves. On one corner, a boy was selling newspapers telling of Lincoln’s inauguration.
On his return he went to the hospital and examined the nurses on the wards. Most of them were men, and many of them drunkards, who ended up in the hospital because no great demands were made on them. He focused on those who looked sober and intelligent, and eventually settled on a man named Jim Halleck. He waited until the nurse had carried an armful of wood into the hospital room and thrown it on the floor next to the pot-bellied stove, and then spoke to him. “I have a suggestion to make to you, Mr. Halleck.”
On the afternoon of the exam, both Dr. McGowan like Dr. Berwyn was present in the general practice room, adding to Shaman’s nervousness. Dr. Meigs examined the candidates in alphabetical order. Shaman was the third, after Allard and Bronson. Israel Allard had no problems; his patient was a young woman with a back condition whose heartbeats were strong, regular, and uncomplicated. Clark Bronson received an elderly, asthmatic man for evaluation. Stuttering and uncertain, he described the rattling noises in the patient’s chest. Meigs had to ask him several leading questions before he got the answer he wanted to hear, but in the end he seemed satisfied. “Mr. Cole? “
It was evident that he expected Shaman to refuse to attend. But Shaman stepped forward and took the one-eared stethoscope. When he looked over at Jim Halleck, the orderly got up and came over to him. The patient was a sixteen-year-old boy of stature who had injured his hand in a carpenter’s workshop. Halleck held one end of the stethoscope to the boy’s chest and put his ear to the other end. Shaman took the patient’s wrist and felt his pulse pounding under his fingertips.