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, while working with interns, residents, and attending physicians.

One day, on morning rounds, we examined a patient with a black tongue. The intern assigned to that patient had researched all the causes of a black tongue and was eager 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 showed us a box of Smith Brothers black cough drops.

The intern's face turned red, and we all laughed. The intern was so focused on science and pathology that he overlooked the obvious. It's been 50 years since I was a third-year medical student, but I still have a vivid memory of that day and that lesson: use common sense, and pay attention to the obvious.

Being a physician has taught me many lessons of common sense. Eventually, I realized that we all lack common sense, and this is why we can't solve our problems. So let's seek and speak common sense, because knowledge plus common sense is wisdom, but knowledge minus common sense is nonsense.


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. It was great to see him with it.

My father never went to college or medical school, but he just knew that we all need nutritious, homegrown fruits and vegetables.

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.