“May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.” Hippocrates wrote that immortal line in the 5th century BCE. Today, those traditions are not only relevant, they are more critical than ever.
In his book, The Finest Traditions of My Calling: One Physician’s Search for the Renewal of Medicine, writer and physician Abraham Nussbaum discusses how hearkening back to those conventions would not only change the way doctors practice medicine, but could revitalize the healthcare system.
Nussbaum believes the essence of those traditions is a way of being fully attentive to the patient. “Being able to sit with someone and really listen to them,” he says, is the most valuable thing a physician can offer her patient....
The Laws of Medicine is a slim volume that eloquently reveals any “laws” that exist in medicine are dynamic, and that the field is ruled more by instinct than by rules.
Written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, the book is packed with elegant prose about the vagaries of medicine. Based on a TED Talk of the same name, The Laws of Medicine shows the relative lawlessness of a field whose “rules” are built on shifting sand.
The author admits that he spent much of his residency on a quest to discover such “laws” so that he could succeed. He writes that he imagined the “rules a young doctor might teach himself to navigate a profession that seems, at first glance, overwhelmingly unnavigable.”
Though his compulsion to discover an infallible source of direction is understandable, the young doctor...
When Doctors Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests
by Leana Wen, MD and Joshua Kosowski, MD
When writer Leana Wen’s mother was diagnosed with cancer while Wen was in medical school, she was horrified by how impossible it was to navigate the system, even after years of being part of it. It also lead to Wen becoming an outspoken advocate for patient empowerment.
“Seeing how (my mother) was treated by her providers gave me a whole new understanding of what it meant to be a patient, and why it’s so important for both patients and physicians to question this cookbook approach to medicine,” Wen writes.
The authors Wen and Kosowski define “cookbook medicine” as a rote and formulaic approach to practice. Better care begins with a better partnership between physician and patient, and that was their goal in writing the book.
They say a doctor makes the worst patient, and like most cliches, it’s probably true. But a new book reveals the doctor-as-patient experience also can instill an invaluable understanding of human suffering, which is a gift to patients and in this case, readers.
When Breath Becomes Air is written by Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon/neuroscientist and writer, whose only book is a bestselling memoir of life in the shadow of cancer. The title is drawn from a favorite poem of the author about the ephemeral sweetness of living: “You that seek what life is in death, Now find it air that once was breath...”
The book opens with an unforgettable description of a young doctor looking at a series of scans and discerning the massive, ghostly tumors that have taken up residence in human lungs. Only after describing the picture and deadly diagnosis does th...