Jerome Groopman is the Recanati Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Chief of Experimental Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He has published more than 180 scientific articles, is a staff writer at The New Yorker, and, most recently, is the coauthor with Pamela Hartzband of Your Medical Mind: How to Decide What Is Right for You. (February 2017)
Is It All in Your Head? True Stories of Imaginary Illness
by Suzanne O’Sullivan
Suzanne O’Sullivan is a neurologist specializing in epilepsy who practices in London. Many of her patients suffer from so-called conversion disorders: somatic symptoms caused by psychological distress that defy ready diagnosis by medical tests or physical examination. “They are medical disorders like no others,” O’Sullivan writes. “They obey no rules. They can affect any part of the body…. Almost any symptom we can imagine can become real when we are in distress.”
Adventures in Human Being: A Grand Tour from the Cranium to the Calcaneum
by Gavin Francis
It was the first day of medical school, and I was about to dissect the corpse of a middle-aged woman. Like all the cadavers in the anatomy lab, her head, hands, and feet were covered by gauze. The instructor pointed to an exposed arm and showed me how to cut …
Oliver Sacks inspired my efforts as a physician-writer, as he has for so many others. I am, in a sense, one of his students. Now, in settings like my seminar, his work inspires the next generation to think and create. His writing, like the light from a distant star, will continue to illuminate the lives of his readers, long after its source is extinguished.
Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine
by Paul A. Offit, M.D.
My mother and father feared debility and death due to pathogens. They were raised in immigrant New York neighborhoods at a time when diphtheria, typhoid, and tuberculosis were rife. The idea of preventing or curing dreaded infectious diseases “naturally,” relying on the body alone, hardly entered our minds. But two generations later, such ideas have considerable traction in our society.
On a sultry June morning in 1976, wearing a starched white coat and tightly knotted tie, I entered the Massachusetts General Hospital. It was my first day of internship, the moment when I would become a real doctor after four years of medical school. I had been a driven student, …
I began writing these words on what appeared to be an unremarkable Sunday morning. Shortly before sunrise, the bedroom still dim, I awoke and quietly made my way to the kitchen, careful not to disturb my still-sleeping wife. The dark-roast coffee was retrieved from its place in the pantry, four scoops then placed in a filter. While the coffee was brewing, I picked up The New York Times at the door. Scanning the front page, my eyes rested on an article mentioning Svoboda, the far-right Ukrainian political party (svoboda, means, I remembered, “freedom”). I prepared an egg-white omelette and toasted two slices of multigrain bread. After a few sips of coffee, fragments of the night’s dream came to mind…