They were unlikely partners. Sam-Sam, the Falafel Man, owned a food truck regularly stationed outside Brigham and Women’s Hospital and served hospital personnel at lunchtime. Physicians, nurses and staff regularly purchased a variety of Middle Eastern sandwiches, salads and kabobs from Sam-Sam’s food truck. Like many of the purveyors of food associated with hospitals, Sam-Sam became something of a local celebrity. Almost everyone in the hospital knew Sam-Sam, the Falafel Man, and his appellation stuck.

Ben Gittes was the urologist-in-chief at BWH and was internationally recognized as an outstanding academic urologist. Despite his academic stature, Ben was very gregarious and approachable. When Sam-Sam developed phimosis, he began to inquire of his customers who he should see regarding a possible circumcision.

Some hospital staff were reluctant to refer him to such a prominent urologist as Gittes for a mundane problem. However, after multiple hospital employees all recommended Ben, Sam-Sam overcame his temerity and scheduled an appointment with Gittes.

Not surprisingly, he had no medical insurance, but Ben’s policy was to care for all, regardless of insurance status. The appointment day arrived and Bill examined Sam-Sam and confirmed the phimosis diagnosis. When Ben recommended a circumcision, Sam-Sam mentioned the insurance problem. This is when Ben’s inherent generosity and benevolence came into play. Ben suggested a barter arrangement to Sam-Sam. He would perform the circumcision without charge, but would distribute his business cards to all the members of the urology office and surgical staff, with the agreement, that anyone who presented the card to Sam-Sam for the next year would be entitled to one free meal.

Being a resident at the time, I never knew how many urology employees presented Ben’s card to Sam-Sam. It didn’t really matter. Ben’s generosity served as an indelible lesson to a young resident of what is the essence of being a physician. Ben and Sam-Sam, the doctor-patient relationship, indeed.


Kevin R. Loughlin is a retired urologic surgeon. He enjoys reading history and writing fiction and non-fiction.