He left photography to become a doctor. Could he go back?

Max Aguilera-Hellweg was pursuing a career in medicine. But then he received a surprise phone call.

I stopped receiving calls on my cell phone while I was training to be a doctor. My friends knew better. My life was not my own. As a resident I sometimes worked nearly a hundred hours a week, overseeing as many as 18 patients at once. Even my mom stopped calling me. I used my phone instead for medical apps—the one that could tell me which antibiotic to prescribe for which bug, the calculator that helped me determine treatments, the app that stored lab values I couldn’t remember.

Then one day my cell phone rang. I was on rounds seeing patients and stepped out to the hall. I didn’t recognize the number, but the area code was Washington, D.C. This call, I thought, must be important. “Yes?” I whispered in the hallway.

“Hey, Max,” the voice boomed. “It’s Todd.” Todd James is a photo editor at National Geographic. I hadn’t spoken to him in 10 years, certainly not since I’d left photography to become a doctor, but I recognized his Oklahoma twang. “I’ve got a job for you.”

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