OSU neuro with Mike Swango

The last year of medical school was spent doing one-month rotations in various medical specialties. Since I wanted to specialize in Emergency Medicine, I choose rotations in Critical Care Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Cardiology, and such. One rotation was Neurosurgery.

The medical student is at the bottom of the seniority list. Next comes the Intern, then the higher-grade residents, and finally the neurosurgeon. The student was encouraged to take as much responsibility as he or she was comfortable.

I was in charge (in my mind) for over twenty hospitalized neurosurgery patients. These ranged from patients with traumatic brain injuries, and spinal cord injuries, to post-surgical patients with brain cancer. Each morning, I would check their labs and x-rays, talk with the nurses, and try to anticipate any complications. I would report my findings to the intern. Back then, Neurosurgery patients would spend weeks if not months in the hospital.

The students changed rotations at the end of the month. The interns changed three days earlier in order to get to know the patients before the students switched. Three days before the end of the month, my new intern started, Dr. Michel Swango, a general surgery intern. I introduced him to all the patients on the service.

The following month, I was surprised to find out about the death of a significant number of the patients that I had followed. I congratulated myself for keeping them alive while I was in charge.

It wasn’t until much later that I found out that I had turned my patients over to one of the most prolific serial killers in American history. Mike Swango is currently serving three consecutive sentences of life without the possibility of parole at the ADX Florence Supermax Prison. The FBI believes he may be responsible for sixty fatal poisonings of patients and coworkers although he admitted to only four.