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Cover for The Soul of a Doctor

The Soul of a Doctor

Harvard Medical Students Face Life and Death

Gordon Harper, Sachin H. Jain, Susan Pories, Jerome E. Groopman, MD (Foreword by)


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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 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.

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

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

Algonquin Books, 9781565125070, 236pp.

Publication Date: June 2, 2006

About 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.