Oranges meant vitamin c, and vitamin c meant a swifter recovery. Terre blinked, hoping she’d misread the handwriting. She had not. This was bad.
Um no. She wrote in glaring red ink next to the statement. Terre hovered her pen over the offending words. First she took a deep breath in and then out, then she scribbled out her own note, and wrote instead See me during office hours.
She scowled; the prospect of prolonged interaction with any undergrad was easily enough to ruin her night but this needed to be corrected. Vitamin c, she thought with an eye roll and forced herself back to grading.
“Um.” The girl said and leaned into the office.
Terre looked up at the noise. “Oh. Hi.” She hastily cleared some of the papers from the desk so they could see each other and motioned to the chair and its frayed seat. “Serena right?”
“Yes.” Serena said through teeth, already smiling nervously. She sat and folded her hands. Terre noted the crystals hanging from her earlobes and nazar beads set incorrectly in gold around her wrists. “I got your note on the test.” Serena prompted.
Terre nodded. “Thank you for coming. That was the third case study you’ve tried to treat with citrus. I felt we should talk.”
Serena frowned. “I don’t understand why I got it wrong.”
Terre took a deep breath and looked at her desk, trying to curb her initial response, which was not nice. “Well for one, the patient didn’t have scurvy.” She said with an attempt at levity. Serena just looked confused. Terre continued in what she hoped was a kind voice. “Vitamin c doesn’t cure anything aside from vitamin c deficiencies. Not the common cold and not toxic-metabolic encephalopathy, which is what the patient in question was suffering from.”
“But the vitamin has been proven—“
Terre was already shaking her head. “No.” She stopped Serena firmly. “It hasn’t.”
“But recovery times–”
Terre raised her hand, silencing the other student. “When you leave here I want you to look up a man named Linus Pauling, he’s the one you have to thank for that bit of misinformation. Well intentioned, but wrong, in the 1950’s he convinced everyone that vitamin c dosing would cure most anything, there was a lot of stupid medicine then. Problem is, this idea stuck.”
Serena’s fingers twitched agitated around her bracelet. “I just don’t think pills and chemicals should be the only options.” She was defensive, Terre realized. .
“Okay.” Terre said slowly. “But prescribing oranges to a patient recovering from a traumatic coma is negligent. So is prescribing it for a cold, there is just less consequence when it does nothing.”
Serena’s mouth thinned into a line and her nostrils flared.
Terre groaned internally, she should never have agreed to TA a class devoted to general medicine. She sighed. “New methods should be explored, believe me I agree, but they have to work. There is a difference between creative alternatives and old fashioned snake oil.”
The undergrad nodded, but the girl was obviously unconvinced.
“Just keep it in mind to be a doctor, good intentions are necessary, but so is being right most of the time.” Terre straightened and stood up, hoping Serena would mimic her.
“Yah.” Serena said and stood. “You are not going to change my grade then?”
“No, but keep anything that sounds new agey or like a folk remedy out of Professor Moss’ tests and you will be fine.”
Serena nodded with a disappointed sigh and left. Terre sat back down, very proud of herself. The last undergrad had left crying, she was getting better at this.