Equal Partners: A Physician's Call for a New Spirit of Medicine / Edition 1

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One week after graduating with honors from Harvard Medical School, Jody Heymann woke up in an emergency room with no memory of how she got there, and, within hours, was turned from physician into patient. The experiences she recounts in her book taught her more about the practice of medicine in America than all her years of schooling. Her deeply disturbing conclusion: Patients all too often occupy the bottom rung of the ladder, with their legs tied to prevent them from climbing. Equal Partners tells the story of the seizure that led to Heymann's hospitalization and chronicles the year and a half that followed during which she was both doctor and patient. As a patient she received treatment that ranged from candid and compassionate to evasive and inhumane. What was supposed to be a brief, simple, and safe operation to remove a lesion in her brain became a ten-hour ordeal with inconclusive results, thus necessitating yet another round of brain surgery. The obstacles she faced along her hard road to recovery only strengthened her determination to regain the active, meaningful life she once knew - as a wife, mother, and physician working in the United States and in developing countries. Heymann's experiences as a patient convinced her to work toward a new, more compassionate spirit of medicine - one in which physicians and patients are equal partners.

The author had just finished medical school when a dangerous brain condition put her in the hospital, where she found she was excluded from crucial decisions about her own care--despite her medical training. When she recovered, she made a commitment to practice a more compassionate style of medicine.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
What happens when a doctor is admitted to the hospital with a serious condition? For Heymann, an intern and a graduate of both the Harvard Medical School and the Kennedy School of Government, it was a harrowing yet vastly enlightening experience. Heymann was placed in neurological intensive care after a seizure; thus began her year and a half as both doctor and patient, as well as parent, chronicled in this spirited account. It is a critique of present doctor-patient relationships and a call for changes in medical education to sensitize future physicians to their patients' concerns as well as to their ailments. As a patient excluded from medical decisions affecting her own case, even misdiagnosed and callously treated, Heymann speaks candidly of her vulnerability. As a physician, she urges fundamental changes in medical practice so that ``doctors would be trained and allowed time to share understanding and decision making with patients.'' (Mar.)
Library Journal
After graduating from medical school, Heymann was struck with a seizure and a brain tumor. This calamity is the basis for a harrowing but ultimately riveting medical tale in which Heymann was both a patient and a doctor. A Harvard faculty member, MacArthur Fellow, wife, and mother of two children, Heymann recounts how she juggled some of these projects simultaneously while struggling with severe neurological problems and completing her pediatric medical residency. From her patient's perspective, Heymann learned firsthand of shortcomings in the medical establishment. Consequently, she argues strongly for the introduction into medical practice of a new spirit in which patients and their families are truly included as equal partners in their own healthcare. She also discusses her recent work with Guatemalan refugees, which demonstrates her social conscience but clouds the main theme of her work. Heymann is best when describing her role as patient and the medical outcomes of her case. For both general and informed readers.-James Swanton, Albert Einstein Coll. of Medicine, New York
William Beatty
As a physician with a Ph.D. in public policy, Heymann has had practical experience in the U.S. and Mexico. As a patient, she has epilepsy and has had Guillain-BarreE syndrome, a major brain hemorrhage, and some minor problems. Her human and rational brief for better physician understanding of patients and the need for physician and patient to work together deals not with exceptional transgressions in this relationship but with daily, uncaring insults. She uses her own experiences as the main thread in her at times almost unbelievable account but also draws on friends and her own patients to make not a sensational assault on medical education and practice but an on-the-scene picture of what can go wrong, why it does, and what can be done to improve conditions. Heymann is a practical optimist who makes both general and specific recommendations worth the attention of every medical student starting junior year, every director of medical education, every library serving discussion groups, and every patient, future patient, and friend of a patient.
From the Publisher

"A narrative of remarkable vividness, sobriety, clarity, and balance."—Oliver Sacks

"I do not say this lightly. This book should be read by everyone in medicine: students, residents, physicians, and insurers."—Daniel D. Federman, Harvard Medical School

"Jody Heymann affirms the power of stories, when written as beautifully as these, to instruct and to move. At the same time, Equal Partners speaks directly and clearly to a debate previously conducted in a jargon that is blessedly absent from this fine book."—Ethan Canin

"Equal Partners is a narrative of remarkable vividness, sobriety, clarity, and balance. Jody Heymann has plumbed patienthood to its depths, and has reentered medicine as a deep listener to patients and their needs, and as an advocate for a medicine which does not infantilize but recognizes individuality and autonomy, and makes patients equal partners with their physicians."—Oliver Sacks

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316359931
  • Publisher: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
  • Publication date: 3/1/1995
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 257
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 8.54 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Jody Heymann is Director of Policy at the Harvard University Center for Society and Health, Associate Professor of Health and Social Behavior at the Harvard School of Public Health, and Assistant Professor of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
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