Pre-Health: Recommended Reading; Reading Recommended

If you are wondering what it feels like to train and practice as a physician, Dr. Danielle Ofri‘s What Doctors Feel (2014) offers a welcome study break from premedical work.  Dr. Ofri, who practices at Bellevue Hospital in NYC, is co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Bellevue Literary Revue and hold MD and PhD degrees from NYU.  Her website is full of “medical media” addressing some of the most poignant and important issues in medicine. DO-color-headshot22 Reading is a great way to remain connected with your emotional and reflective side when problem sets and exams are pressing upon you.

A starred review from Booklist: Tucked inside a white lab coat or scrub suit is a welter of human emotions that can play a large role in a doctor’s decision-making process. Ofri, an internist at New York’s Bellevue Hospital, explores the emotional core of doctoring. Suturing together her own experiences, the plights of memorable patients, and interviews with other physicians, sheWhatDoctorsFeel examines the diverse feelings—anger, grief, shame, disillusionment, gratitude, humility, joy—that can fluster or elevate physicians. “Fear is a primal emotion in medicine,” she writes, and doctors worry about making a mistake or even killing a patient. Sadness is an occupational hazard, and “A thread of sorrow weaves through the daily life of medicine.” Then there’s empathy. Is it innate, acquired, or both, and why do third-year medical students lose it? Ofri exposes her emotional side as she recounts the story of a longtime patient, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala who finally receives a heart transplant but dies shortly after the procedure. Ofri admits, “Doctors who are angry, nervous, jealous, burned out, terrified, or ashamed can usually still treat bronchitis or ankle sprains competently.” Yet her insightful and invigorating book makes the case that it’s better for patients if a physician’s emotional compass-needle points in a positive direction. –Tony Miksanek

Author: Carol Hagan

Carol Hagan is a pre-health and pre-grad advisor in Career Services. She has a Ph.D. in art history from Penn and did her undergraduate work at Wesleyan University.