Going Off Course

We don’t want to reach the finish line and then discover that we have skipped part of the trail.

by Alan B. Sanderson, MD

Recently I ran a trail half marathon near Bryce Canyon, and I have been thinking about an incident during the race ever since. At about mile 7.5 I was coming down a dirt road at a fast pace, with tall pine trees all around and hoodoos in the cliffs above me to my right. At a small clearing in the woods the course suddenly veered off of the road in a sharp angle onto a single-track side trail to the right. The turn was marked with signs and pink ribbons tied to a tree branch at the turn. I was watching for this turnoff because I had run on these trails before and I had studied the course before race day.

Going Off Course - map-arrows

Satellite view of the tight turn onto the side trail to the right. The dashed path shows where the runner went off course.

But a runner who was a few hundred feet in front of me blew right past the signs and kept running down the road. This surprised and confused me, and I didn’t know how to react in the moment. My first thought was actually, “Oh, maybe she’s not running in the race after all.” I like to go trail running by myself, and occasionally I will happen upon a trail race which is underway. (That actually happened to me just two weeks before the race.) Also there were multiple race distances on the same day, with runners doing 50 kilometers, 50 miles, and 100 miles on overlapping courses. Maybe she was racing one of the other distances?

A few minutes after turning up the side trail it finally occurred to me that I should have asked her. I should have called out, “Hey! You’re going off course!” or “You missed the turn!” But she looked so confident, running right past the signs, that I didn’t even think to question her at first. Obviously she knew where she was going.

Or maybe not.
Continue reading

Posted in Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Simultaneously on Both Sides of the Veil

I wrote a guest blog post at my brother’s website, which went live this morning. It is a discussion of the use of chiasmus in Elder Dale G. Renlund’s April 2018 General Conference talk. Elder Renlund told a remarkable story about a heart transplant recipient who became an important figure in the life of his donor’s family. The recipient acted as proxy for his donor as he was sealed to his family in the temple. It is a powerful story, and Elder Renlund used a subtle but very effective literary device to tell it, as I explain in the post: Simultaneously on Both Sides of the Veil: Chiasmus in Elder Renlund’s “Family History and Temple Work: Sealing and Healing.”


Alan B. Sanderson, MD is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is a practicing neurologist.

Do you know someone who needs to hear this message? Please share it with them.

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ministering for Sociophobes: A Practical Guide

If you have social phobia, please know that there are positive things you can do about it.

by Alan B. Sanderson, MD

One of my earliest memories of social anxiety was when I delivered an invitation to the next-door neighbors to attend my baptismal service when I was 8 years old. This simple errand absolutely terrified me, and I found myself unable to ring their doorbell. After a brief and panicked deliberation I left the invitation on their doorstep and ran for home. It would be nearly two decades before I learned the name of this disorder and started making positive changes to address it, but by then my social anxiety had already exacted a significant toll on my life. This toll was particularly heavy on my Church service as a missionary, as a home teacher, and in other callings. In this post I will describe the symptoms and management of social anxiety disorder and will provide some insights from my own experience about how to work through these limitations to get your Church callings done. Continue reading

Posted in Social Anxiety, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dr. Sanderson’s Miracle Insomnia CURE!

Learn about the groundbreaking new method that has helped ONE PERSON overcome sleep-onset insomnia!

by Alan B. Sanderson, MD


One of our kids fell asleep with a plastic fish toy in his mouth.

Sleep is a fascinating topic for geeks like me. It turns out that scientists don’t have a satisfactory answer to the first question about sleep: why do we need to do it? It is very clear that we do need to sleep, as all sorts of bad things happen when sleep is disrupted, but its ultimate physiologic purpose remains a mystery.

During my residency I developed an effective way to shut off my mind and go to sleep when I was on overnight call assignments in the hospital. Those were sometimes incredibly stressful nights, and opportunities to sleep were precious and fleeting. There was no time to waste with insomnia. You never knew when that pager was going to go off, so you had to get your sleep while the getting was good.

Please note that this method has not been studied in clinical trials, and that I cannot guarantee its success in your particular situation (and that this post does not constitute medical advice, etc.). But it worked well in the crucible of my residency call nights, and I still apply it with good results today. Consider this post as a personal testimonial. Continue reading

Posted in Medical Education | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Confidence in Our Special Knowledge

Just as a physician develops special skills and knowledge through years of apprenticeship, all of us can become disciples of the Savior and be recipients of special light and knowledge.

by Rand Colbert, MD

A few days before graduation, my medical school arranged for a first year internal medicine resident to come and speak to our graduating class about the transition between medical school and residency. Of all of the bits of advice he offered us, one thing he said stood out above all others. He told us to “never let your patients discover that you are the fraud that you know you are.” Of course, this was supposed to be funny, but behind the humor there was a tongue-in-cheek reality that became very real over the next year for me and for every student in my graduating class.

One minute I was a student with a short white coat and the next minute, I wore a longer white coat with “Rand Colbert MD” embroidered above the pocket. It felt strange to actually be a doctor, and I felt like an imposter wearing the longer coat. I spent my one year general internship at the largest private hospital in Wisconsin, with over 700 beds at the time. I can remember my first night on call. There were only two of us interns in the hospital that night, covering all of the patients on our service. Our supervising physician was a brand new second year resident from Pakistan, who had completed her internship two years earlier, spoke English with a thick accent, and was more scared than we were. We didn’t see her all night (she hid in her call room).

I remember the first “code blue” that was called over the loud speakers that night. My pager went off simultaneously since I was designated to cover all emergency situations whenever a patient went into cardiopulmonary arrest. As I ran toward the room where the patient was dying, I wished I could go and hide with my senior resident. The advice given to us just prior to graduation by that wise internal medicine resident rang in my ears louder than the alarm sounding in the halls of the hospital.

Continue reading

Posted in Medical Education, Stories | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Help My Unbelief

Have you ever held a sick baby through the night? It makes you think about a lot of things.

by Alan B. Sanderson, MD


One Saturday night I woke up around midnight to the sound of my baby crying. It was not his normal cry, and I could tell that something was wrong. When I got up I found my wife pacing around the house with him, and he was warm to the touch. She went back to bed while I took my turn holding him, and within a few minutes he was back to sleep. But it was a fitful sleep, and I knew that if I laid him down in his crib he would start crying again soon. It would be unfair of me to go back to bed and fall asleep, because my wife would probably wake up again and hold the baby all night. (I have this talent for sleeping through babies crying…) So I sat down in the recliner with the baby on my lap, pondering questions of faith and mortality for the next several hours. I did get a bit of sleep, but not much, and what I got was heavily interrupted. Every few minutes I was awakened again, trying to comfort a baby who would not stay comforted.

Continue reading

Posted in Family, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Crescent Moon

Remembering Christie Perkins

by Alan Sanderson, MD

On a cold morning a few months ago I walked from my car at the end of the parking lot to my office. I passed by the cancer clinic and the outpatient infusion clinic, and I thought about my neighbor Christie. I thought about the burden of her disease, and I imagined all of the times she has sat in that waiting room, and in those clinic rooms. I wondered how many times she had cried there in those rooms.

Then I looked up in the sky above the clinic and saw the moon, still shining in the early morning light before sunrise. It was a waning crescent, just days from the end of its cycle. I thought about Christie, approaching the end of her life on earth, and my heart was heavy.

Then I thought about the light of the moon, which is really just reflected light from the sun. Christie Perkins, in her own remarkable way, reflected the light of God in her life and words, guiding and inspiring thousands of other people.

Continue reading

Posted in Cancer, Death and Dying | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment