The Soul of a Doctor: Harvard Medical Students Face Life and Death

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By the time most of us meet our doctors, they’ve been in practice for a number of years. Often they seem aloof, uncaring, and hurried. Of course, they’re not all like that, and most didn’t start out that way.

Here are voices of third-year students just as they begin to take on clinical responsibilities. Their words focus on the odd transition students face when they must deal with real people in real time and in real crises and when they must learn to put aside their emotions to...

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The Soul of a Doctor: Harvard Medical Students Face Life and Death

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Overview

By the time most of us meet our doctors, they’ve been in practice for a number of years. Often they seem aloof, uncaring, and hurried. Of course, they’re not all like that, and most didn’t start out that way.

Here are voices of third-year students just as they begin to take on clinical responsibilities. Their words focus on the odd transition students face when they must deal with real people in real time and in real crises and when they must learn to put aside their emotions to make quick, accurate, and sensitive decisions. Their decisions aren’t always right, and the consequences can be life-altering—for all involved. Moving, disturbing, and candid, their true stories show us a side of the profession that few ever see, or could even imagine. They show, often painfully, how medical students grow up, right at the bedside.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
Medical schooling's decades-long focus on the science rather than the art of doctoring seems to be shifting. Doctors and their teachers are again recognizing that there is more to patient care than pages of numbers and medical images. The change isn't proceeding rapidly, though; indeed, one of the med-student contributors to this book notes being told, "The patient's history is totally worthless." The good news is that medical schools are beginning to adjust. In Harvard's patient-doctor course, students are required not only to work on the wards but also to write essays about their experiences. The results may be as surprising to them as it is sadly predictable to many patients. After viewing himself in a videotaped interview with a patient, one young man estimated that it had taken him only months to go from being "Mr. Empathy" to being "Dr. Jerk." One can almost hear the idea bulbs ignite as these students wrestle with issues of communication, empathy, and easing suffering and loss.—Booklist
— Donna Chavez
Booklist - Donna Chavez
Medical schooling's decades-long focus on the science rather than the art of doctoring seems to be shifting. Doctors and their teachers are again recognizing that there is more to patient care than pages of numbers and medical images. The change isn't proceeding rapidly, though; indeed, one of the med-student contributors to this book notes being told, "The patient's history is totally worthless." The good news is that medical schools are beginning to adjust. In Harvard's patient-doctor course, students are required not only to work on the wards but also to write essays about their experiences. The results may be as surprising to them as it is sadly predictable to many patients. After viewing himself in a videotaped interview with a patient, one young man estimated that it had taken him only months to go from being "Mr. Empathy" to being "Dr. Jerk." One can almost hear the idea bulbs ignite as these students wrestle with issues of communication, empathy, and easing suffering and loss.—Booklist
Publishers Weekly
As Groopman states in his foreword, "each interaction between a doctor and a patient is a story." The moving stories of 44 doctors-in-training collected by two M.D.s (Pories and Harper) and one medical student (Jain), all at Harvard, are accounts written by medical students. Their tales convey lessons both emotional and medical, from learning how to communicate and empathize with those afflicted by illness to ways to ease suffering and loss. In one heartrending incident, David Y. Hwang describes a marine's rage followed by tears on hearing that his wife was going to die, while the wife herself remains in calm denial. Rajesh G. Shah explores how he learned from his first patient to overcome his judgmental attitude about those so beset by anxiety they cannot function without medication. In a particularly self-revelatory (and anonymous) piece, a student describes the endless hazing experience at the hands of interns and residents and the student's need to constantly manage a sense of insecurity. These are thoughtful and illuminating accounts of beginning physicians under stress, growing and changing as they progress through their chosen field. (June 2) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Breast cancer surgeon Pories, Harvard medical student Sachin H. Jain, and child and adolescent psychiatrist Gordon Harper have compiled approximately 50 firsthand student accounts born from a patient-doctor course at Harvard Medical School taught by Pories. Averaging several pages, these essays are startlingly well written, and if a few of them are occasionally a little maudlin or trite, the authors' sincerity is authentic. The essays are grouped into four sections: "Communication," "Empathy," "Easing Suffering and Loss," and "Finding a Better Way." Some describe a patient's family or a hospital colleague, while others focus on students' private lives. Joe Wright addresses the often difficult task of interviewing a patient; Mike Westerhaus offers a meta-analysis of the art of listening. There is no excessive use of medical terminology, and less-common words are explained in parentheses, which makes these essays entirely accessible to general readers. Academic and medical school libraries will want to purchase this book, and its low price, emotional impact, and 21st-century perspective will make it a desirable purchase for public libraries as well.-Martha E. Stone, Massachusetts General Hosp. Lib., Boston Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-This collection of essays written by medical students going from the classroom to their first experiences with live patients gives personal views of the issues doctors face. From communicating diagnoses to patients to balancing medical protocol with patient needs, medical students have a unique perspective. They see established procedures with new eyes and question everything. Each essay conveys a pivotal moment or experience for its author. One individual learning to take medical histories watched a video of himself interacting with patients and realized that he never looked up and was brusque to the point of rudeness. Teens exploring medical careers will find much to think about here.-Charlotte Bradshaw, San Mateo County Library, CA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565125070
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 6/2/2006
  • Pages: 236
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

GORDON HARPER, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist, is the director of the Patient-Doctor curricula at Harvard Medical School and the recipient of the Award for Teaching Excellence from the Child Psychiatry Fellows at Children’s Hospital of Boston.

SACHIN H. JAIN is a third-year medical student at Harvard. He is a tutor in medicine and public policy and has been awarded the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship, the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, and the Galbraith Fellowship.

SUSAN PORIES, M.D., a breast cancer surgeon and a surgical educator and investigator, has been named one of America’s top surgeons and is a scholar in the Academy at Harvard Medical School.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 25, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great doctoring stories

    Very interesting stories by doctors with great reflections and emotions, shows that doctors are humans too!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2009

    The Soul of a Doctor review by an OSU Comp Student 2009

    This collection of forty-four short essays by Harvard educated doctors and medical students at Harvard Medical school is thought provoking and sometimes disturbing. As a OSU Comp Student 2009, I chose this book as I am considering a medical career, however the book is geared towards everyone, most medical jargon is explained, and several of the essays are of the personal lives of students and physicians. The insights of the doctor as he lives with a mistaken diagnosis or dealing with death is emotional and real. In the section, Finding a Better Way, the stories deal with finding solutions to the health care crisis and possible ways medical training can be changed to help medical students become better doctors.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2007

    A reviewer

    the book is a really good read if your applying to medical school because it gives you an idea about how our ideals are put to the test and how the transition from second year to third year is more than just a change of where you will be taught. its comforting to know that physicians emotions and their expression do have a place in medicine. if youre looking for a leisure book that will leave you feeling that you have a little better perspective of medicine then this is your book!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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