Jerome Groopman, M.D., holds the Dina and Raphael Recanati Chair of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and is chief of experimental medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. A staff writer for The New Yorker, he is the author of How Doctors Think, The Anatomy of Hope, Second Opinions, The Measure of Our Days, and other books.
I wish I had read this book when I was in medical school, and I'm glad I've read it now. Most readers will know Jerome Groopman from his essays in the New Yorker, which take on a wide variety of complex medical conditions, evocatively communicating the tensions and emotions of both doctors and patients. But this book is something different: a sustained, incisive and sometimes agonized inquiry into the processes by which medical minds-brilliant, experienced, highly erudite medical minds-synthesize information and understand illness. How Doctors Think is mostly about how these doctors get it right, and about why they sometimes get it wrong: "[m]ost errors are mistakes in thinking. And part of what causes these cognitive errors is our inner feelings, feelings we do not readily admit to and often don't realize." Attribution errors happen when a doctor's diagnostic cogitations are shaped by a particular stereotype. It can be negative: when five doctors fail to diagnose an endocrinologic tumor causing peculiar symptoms in "a persistently complaining, melodramatic menopausal woman who quite accurately describes herself as kooky." But positive feelings also get in the way; an emergency room doctor misses unstable angina in a forest ranger because "the ranger's physique and chiseled features reminded him of a young Clint Eastwood-all strong associations with health and vigor." Other errors occur when a patient is irreversibly classified with a particular syndrome: "diagnosis momentum, like a boulder rolling down a mountain, gains enough force to crush anything in its way." The patient stories are told with Groopman's customary attention to character and emotion. And there is great care and concern for the epistemology of medical knowledge, and a sense of life-and-death urgency in analyzing the well-intentioned thought processes of the highly trained. I have never read elsewhere this kind of discussion of the ambiguities besetting the superspecialized-the doctors on whom the rest of us depend: "Specialization in medicine confers a false sense of certainty." How Doctors Think helped me understand my own thought processes and my colleagues'-even as it left me chastened and dazzled by turns. Every reflective doctor will learn from this book-and every prospective patient will find thoughtful advice for communicating successfully in the medical setting and getting better care. Many of the physicians Dr. Groopman writes about are visionaries and heroes; their diagnostic and therapeutic triumphs are astounding. And these are the doctors who are, like the author, willing to anatomize their own serious errors. This passionate honesty gives the book an immediacy and an eloquence that will resonate with anyone interested in medicine, science or the cruel beauties of those human endeavors which engage mortal stakes. (Mar. 19) Klass is professor of journalism and pediatrics at NYU. Her most recent book is Every Mother Is a Daughter, with Sheila Solomon Klass. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
In a hotly contested book won by the publisher in a preemptive bid, a Harvard Medical School professor explains how issues like a doctor's age, gender, and relationship with the patient can affect care. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
"Dr. Jerome Groopman is bringing out his most essential book yet, HOW DOCTORS THINK." Boston Phoenix
"A highly pleasurable must-read." Kirkus Reviews, Starred Every
reflective doctor will learn from this book...every prospective
patient will find thoughtful advice for communicating successfully
Publishers Weekly, Starred A book to restore faith in an
often-resented profession, well enough written to warrant its
quarter-million first printing.
Booklist, ALA A cogent analysis of all the wrong ways his fellow practitioners are trained to appraoch the patients they treat.
Elle A sage, humane prescription for medical practitioners and the people who depend of them. O, The Oprah Magazine "Splendid and courageous...Groopman lifts the veil on the most taboo topic...the pervasive nature of misdiagnosis." -- Ron Chernow, author of ALEXANDER HAMILTON, TITAN, and THE HOUSE OF MORGAN "Groopman has written a unique, important and wonderful book...You'll never look at your own doctor in the same way again." -- Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, authors of FREAKONOMICS