Marcel Proust was hardly the only person to note the uniquely evocative coupling that smell has to memory. In medical school, we are reminded that olfaction is the only sense whose neural connections communicate directly with the memory centers of our brain. In the course of a day, my specialty’s smells take me close to death yet back to childhood. At times, the deafening exhaust systems and blinding light of the microscope isolate me from our human task, but when the molecules creep into my olfactory neurons, this job’s intimacy with human bodies — and human beings — could never feel closer.

You can read the rest in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.