Singular Intimacies: Becoming a Doctor at Bellevue

Singular Intimacies: Becoming a Doctor at Bellevue

4.9 14
by Danielle Ofri
     
 

The minute Danielle Ofri entered the doors of Bellevue Hospital, the tentative medical student was plunged into the overcrowded world of urban medicine. Singular Intimacies lays bare the harrowing years of medical school and internship, offering the insider’s view of becoming a doctor.

 

Overview

The minute Danielle Ofri entered the doors of Bellevue Hospital, the tentative medical student was plunged into the overcrowded world of urban medicine. Singular Intimacies lays bare the harrowing years of medical school and internship, offering the insider’s view of becoming a doctor.

 

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
These essays, some previously published, about the author's 10 years as a medical student, intern and resident at the oldest public hospital in the U.S. resonate with insight, intelligence, humor and an extraordinary sensitivity to both the patients she treated in this inner-city facility and the staff she worked with. The cofounder and editor-in-chief of a literary magazine, the Bellevue Review, Ofri is now an attending physician at Bellevue and brings to this memoir a combination of medical information and some very expressive writing. The author acknowledges that when she arrived to work on the wards, she had no idea what her responsibilities were or how to perform typical student tasks like drawing blood. Along with the technical skills she absorbed working overtime in a stressful atmosphere, Ofri also learned to truly care for her cases. In "Finding the Person," she describes, for example, why she continued to speak to and maintain a bedside manner with a comatose woman in front of the dying woman's family. "Intensive Care" recounts the story of Dr. Sitkin, a difficult supervisor who both alienated and won the respect of his medical team, and eventually took his own life. The tragic loss of her close friend Josh, a 27-year-old, who died from a congenital heart condition ("The Burden of Knowledge"), caused her to doubt the foundation of medical training, that knowledge is power. The pieces in this powerful collection are tied together by the struggle of a clearly gifted physician to master the complexities of healing. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
As Ofri relates in this marvelous book, becoming a doctor is a complex process. The author, who trained at New York City's famed inner-city, 250-year-old Bellevue Hospital and cofounded the Bellevue Literary Review, relates cases that revolve around gravely ill patients who die in stark and painful circumstances. Her gifted storytelling discloses a variety of patients, their medical needs, and the doctor-hospital-patient interface. How does "the System" make a doctor? The answer is still a big mystery (as David Duncan's Residents also makes clear). New, book-smart graduates must sometimes feel like impostors as they take up their residencies, but a few years later they discover that they have become doctors. It is this alchemy that Ofri's well-crafted prose successfully exposes. Her sometimes stressful and sad stories reveal that the connections made by a resident-physician with patients is a demanding part of medical training, a part that finally makes becoming a physician uplifting. Highly recommended for most medical collections and where patrons also enjoy works by Abraham Verghese and Atul Gawande. [A chapter was selected for The Best American Essays of 2002 and won the Missouri Review Editor's Prize for Nonfiction.-Ed.]-James Swanton, Harlem Hosp. Lib., New York Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Heartwarming memoirs of a young woman’s years at a venerable New York City hospital, where she is transformed from bewildered medical student to assured physician. Ofri, an attending physician at Bellevue and editor-in-chief of the institution’s literary journal, writes movingly of the human connections between doctor and patient. Versions of most of these 15 chapters have been previously published, but here they form a cohesive narrative of a compassionate and perceptive doctor’s development. When she began her initiation on the wards as a third-year medical student, the author left the orderly routine of classroom and research laboratory (she had already earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry) for the chaos, ambiguities, and rich rewards of learning how to help living and dying men and women in an inner-city hospital. With her first patient, the grandfatherly Zalman Wiszhinsky, she learns not only how to draw blood but the singular intimacy of sharing another human being’s life-and-death experience. A cast of vivid characters--a Rikers Island prisoner with an AA battery in his stomach, an obnoxious and abusive drug addict, a psychiatrist in fierce denial about his lethal pancreatic cancer, a middle-aged woman in a permanent coma--all play a role in Ofri’s complex emotional and intellectual growth. She shares her fears, her humiliations, her failures, her uncertainties, her growing competence, and her triumphs. What is unmistakable, however, is that long before becoming a thoroughly trained and skilled physician, Ofri was already a singularly caring woman, aware of her patients as real-live fellow human beings. Let’s hope there’s a whole library of books to come from this talentedphysician/writer.
From the Publisher
"Danielle Ofri is a finely gifted writer, a born storyteller as well as a born physician, and through these fifteen brilliantly written episodes, we get not only a deep sense of the high drama of life and death, but a feeling for the making of a physician’s mind and soul." —Oliver Sacks, M.D.

"These essays. . . resonate with insight, intelligence, humor and an extraordinary sensitivity to both the patients she treated in this inner-city facility and the staff she worked with. . . .Ofri brings to this memoir a combination of medical information and some very expressive writing. . . The pieces in this powerful collection are tied together by the struggle of a clearly gifted physician to master the complexities of healing."  —Publishers Weekly

"Ofri is a gifted writer. Her vignettes ring with truth, and for any physician or patient who knows the dramas of a big-city hospital they will evoke tears, laughter, and memories. Indeed, any reader, physician or not, will find in Singular Intimacies the essence of becoming and being a doctor." —Robert S. Schwartz, New England Journal of Medicine

"...[Ofri's] writing tumbles forth with color and emotion. She demonstrates an ear for dialogue, humility about the limits of her medical training, and an extraordinary capacity to be touched by human suffering...Ofri's book is an important addition to the literary canon of medicine." —Jan Gardner, Boston Globe

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807072523
Publisher:
Beacon
Publication date:
04/14/2003
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
5.79(w) x 8.83(h) x 0.98(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Danielle Ofri is a finely gifted writer, a born storyteller as well as a born physician, and through these fifteen brilliantly written episodes, we get not only a deep sense of the high drama of life and death, but a feeling for the making of a physician’s mind and soul." —Oliver Sacks, M.D.

"These essays. . . resonate with insight, intelligence, humor and an extraordinary sensitivity to both the patients she treated in this inner-city facility and the staff she worked with. . . .Ofri brings to this memoir a combination of medical information and some very expressive writing. . . The pieces in this powerful collection are tied together by the struggle of a clearly gifted physician to master the complexities of healing." —Publishers Weekly

"Ofri is a gifted writer. Her vignettes ring with truth, and for any physician or patient who knows the dramas of a big-city hospital they will evoke tears, laughter, and memories. Indeed, any reader, physician or not, will find in Singular Intimacies the essence of becoming and being a doctor." —Robert S. Schwartz, New England Journal of Medicine

"...[Ofri's] writing tumbles forth with color and emotion. She demonstrates an ear for dialogue, humility about the limits of her medical training, and an extraordinary capacity to be touched by human suffering...Ofri's book is an important addition to the literary canon of medicine." —Jan Gardner, Boston Globe

Meet the Author

Danielle Ofri, MD PhD, is an attending physician in the medical clinic at Bellevue Hospital, and Assistant Professor of Medicine at New York University School of Medicine. She divides her time between seeing patients, teaching medical students and residents, editing and writing.

Dr. Ofri was born in New York City. She studied physiology as an undergraduate at McGill University in Montreal. She spent the next decade at New York University Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital for her medical and scientific education. She obtained her PhD in biochemistry along with her MD, followed by a residency in internal medicine.

After residency, Dr. Ofri spent nearly two years traveling. She worked as a free-lance physician in a variety of communities from East Hampton to rural New Mexico. In between job assignments she spent time in Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Peru learning Spanish for her eventual return to inner-city medicine. During her travels she dragged along her laptop, grateful to finally have time to write down the stories that had accumulated during her years at Bellevue. These stories have been published in numerous literary and medical journals, and are now collected in book form.

Dr. Ofri has a particular interest in the relationship of literature and medicine. She has introduced a program encouraging medical students to experiment with literary descriptions of patient encounters to help explore the complexities of illness.

Dr. Ofri is one of the founders and the Editor-in-Chief of the Bellevue Literary Review, a literary journal devoted to writings about the human body, illness, health and healing. She is also Associate Chief Editor of the Bellevue Guide to Outpatient Medicine, a textbook of internal medicine published by British Medical Journal Publications. Additionally, she has developed a bilingual collection of educational materials for patients.

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Singular Intimacies: Becoming a Doctor At Bellevue 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you would like to be transported by the human condition, if you would like to take a glimpse into the oldest public hospital in the U.S., if you would like to know that there are doctors out there who are compassionate, funny, wise, accurate and poetic, then this is a must-read book. And if none of that intrigues you, then you should read it nonetheless. Dr. Ofri takes what could be ordinary encounters in her practice as a resident at Bellevue Hospital and transforms those encounters into stories for everyone to see a reflection of themselves, to note how the relationship between patient and doctor, between writer and reader can be intimate, meaningful and fulfilling. Read it for yourself, then take your book to your next doctor's appointment and hand it over, and hope that the next time you see your doctor, you will feel a little more of the human touch, human understand, and human connection.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Danielle Ofri is an exceptional writer who writes with style, warmth, honesty, and clarity. Although the book describes unrelated incidents that occurred during her intern and residency training to become a doctor, each chapter flows into the next almost like a novel. It is highly recommended for all medical students, interns, and residents because it shows that one only becomes a competent physician through actually applying what is taught in medical school, keeping in mind that all patients are human with their own feelings and fears.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you have ever wondered what medical training is like, if you have ever fantasized about becoming a doctor, or if you just love strong writing and great stories, this is a book for you. Singular Intimacies takes us inside the emotional and intellectual heart of a doctor as she makes her journey from medical student to resident physician during her training at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. As a physician and poet who learned to practice medicine at similar inner-city hospitals, I can assure any reader that Dr. Ofri's descriptions of the clinical situations she encounters (including the array of patients, diagnostic dilemmas, clinical conversations, and moments of genuine love and exhilaration), all ring true for me: patients recover unexpectedly from what seem to be fatal illnesses; they die without warning and without having an accurate diagnosis; and they laugh, bleed, masturbate, cooperate, and act up in every imaginable (and unimaginable) way. Through all these experiences, Dr. Ofri shares her own personal responses which vary from her sense of pride when she begins to experience a sense of mastery, to moments of intense anxiety and despair. I found myself re-experiencing my own excitement, fear, and sleep-deprivation, only this time with a compassionate guide, one who is strong enough to let herself laugh at gallows humor, and also be vulnerable enough to cry in the arms of a priest as the patient's family watches. And I celebrated when Dr. Ofri finally finished her training , bruised and calloused, but with the compassionate heart and voice of a healer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A beautiful collection of stories from the hospital world. Dr Ofri provides a clear view of the resident experience as well as a vivid tales of many patient experiences. I enjoyed the novel very much and highly recommend it to all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Danielle Ofri's peek into the making of a physician at Bellevue is clear and compelling. We are caught up in the quivering overwhelm of a novice thrown into the arena of life and death, expected to assess, make decisions, and live with them. Progressing from medical student to intern to resident, we are privy to Ofri's learning by the seat of her pants, to how she absorbs the hard lesson of how to treat with compassion even those patients who are difficult to like, to her sense of wonder as she realizes she is gaining expertise and confidence. In this era of physicians bent on appearing as if they are always in control and on top of things, Ofri bravely exposes her passion, her caring, and her vulnerability as she finds her way through the sometimes dark tunnels of medical academia. As a struggling neophyte, she seems to silently bear her trials without comment. It is gratifying to see that the more confident graduating resident finds her voice, standing up to those who make the system difficult. 'Singular Intimacies' can help budding and practicing physicians to be better doctors. And from learning that doctors are people, too, patients can learn to be better patients.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Editor of the Bellevue Literary Review (one of the best journals being published today), Danielle Ofri proves herself an excellent author as well. As a nurse practitioner, I've watched many a med student make the transition from timid learner to accomplished physician. Ofri captures this process beautifully, along the way revealing herself as caring, humorous, and human. Among the many books by physicians, this one stands out.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Danielle Ofri goes where others fear to tread: here we have a doctor talking about the suffering and pain her patients experience by making their pain her own. Ofri GOES there. As a childhood survivor of polio, I knew the opposite treatment which leads to isolation, the worst suffering of any disease. We have come a long way from 1951: but not far enough. Ofri knows this and SHOWS this to the reader, through writing which is clear as glass, by sharing her apprenticeship with us; by writing such chapters on becoming a doctor at Bellevue as the opening one, 'Drawing Blood,' where she openly speaks of Zalman Wiszhinsky being her 'first victim.' Ofri shows us how this victimization is tranformed into the intimacy between patient and doctor which pushes the envelope, putting a compassionate, contemporary spin on medicine: making of doctor and patient not executioner and victim, but a team of two human beings, a pair, bent upon one goal: healing, or enduring, or passing through pain into peace. In subsequent chapters, Danielle Ofri elaborates on how she establishes a relationship with her patients which is both singular and intimate, justifying the title of this tender yet white-hot collection. All doctors should read it. All interns, residents, and most importantly all patients should read it, so that the isolation is finally broken.) This is that rare gift: a book by an M.D. which is close to a poet's memoir: in these pages, an arc of words 'shimmers' in air, and a patient's history 'settles softly into mine,' is absorbed by the one who recounts that story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The beauty and clarity of Danielle Ofri's writing convey the immediacy of her experiences during her clinical training in medicine at Bellevue Hospital in NYC. In the complex, somewhat chaotic environment of a large city teaching hospital not necessarily conducive to reflective compassionate care, she values the innate resilient sensitivity and compassion within herself that complement the technical proficiencies she is developing. Her responsiveness to the interpersonal side of medicine enriches for her her professional role, and the patients under her care are beneficiaries. A rich perspective and wit enhance this wondrous rendering of the interpersonal nature of doctor-patient relationships.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed both the content and the manner in which it was constructed. I found it had a really nice mix of human interest, medicine and self-deprecating humor. It was also interesting on a more psychological level as how humans react under stress and the small deviations (which have major ramifications for patients) that they can affect while operating within a much larger system. While the stress and the adaptation of the job was familiar to me, the additional pressures of New York and a crumbling health system created a very volatile backdrop. The book successfully highlights the role of a caring but stressed doctor within a very unmanageable system.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's not often that one is given the opportunity to visit the medical world through the honest eyes of a person willing to share the adventure in the way that Danielle Ofri has done in her collection of stories. We are so accustomed to viewing our doctors as pillars of knowledge and confidence that it's often difficult to understand that the learning curve is a very steep one for people who want to be the good doctor. In these stories, we are invited to be witness to the journey of one very sensitive woman, a person who is willing message the feet of an ailing patient when she was uncertain of how else she could help as she begins her odessey towards becoming the doctor she ultimately becomes. Her stories are compelling and very readable, each one a drama of its own. Her talent is to be able to see what lies behind the list of symptoms that a patient presents, to understand that each person represents a complexity of life that can be presented on these pages and to tell each story with a respectable amount of techincal information that I found especially interesting. I enjoyed her insights, her humor and her profound honesty about herself and the profession that she has chosen.