Common sense means paying attention to the obvious. This is not as easy as it sounds, because we all have vivid imaginations, and we tend to get lost in our fantasies.

I learned the lesson of common sense as a third-year medical student. I was doing an internal medicine rotation at a VA (Veterans Affairs) hospital, working with interns, residents, and attending physicians.

One day, we examined a patient with a black tongue. The intern assigned to that patient researched all the causes of a black tongue and wanted to impress us. As the intern started to lecture us, the attending physician interrupted him and asked the patient if he uses black cough drops. The patient smiled and took out a box of black cough drops.

The intern's face turned red. He was so focused on science and ego that he missed the obvious. It's been 50 years since I was a third-year medical student, but I still recall that day and that lesson: use common sense, and pay attention to the obvious.


Like all medical school graduates, I received a free monogrammed doctor's bag from Big Pharma. In time, my bag wore out, and I gave it to my father to hold his tools.

My father was a machinist, carpenter, and home gardener, and he made good use of my bag. He worked very hard, and it was great to see him with it.

My father never went to college or medical school, but he had a kind heart, common sense, and innate wisdom.

It took me many years to grasp my father's humble, wholesome wisdom. He was my true-blue, blue-collar dad, the best teacher and friend I ever had.