A much-needed, convincing argument that, regarding doctor-patient communication, the stakes are very high and that what...

WHAT PATIENTS SAY, WHAT DOCTORS HEAR

Why communication between doctor and patient is the most critical element of medical care.

Ofri (New York Univ. School of Medicine) is not only a practicing clinician, but an author (What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine, 2013, etc.) and editor-in-chief of the Bellevue Literary Review. Her revealing doctor-patient stories often make her seem like the doctor that every patient wishes they had, and she draws on patient accounts to illustrate the problems that can arise in communication between doctor and patient. This book, however, goes far beyond Ofri’s personal experiences with patients. She delves into the relevant research on communication, citing some ingenious experiments on listening. Studies show that the better the listener, the better the speaker, and listening is one of the hardest skills that a doctor has to master. But it can be taught, and Ofri reports that medical schools across the country are developing formal curricula to that end. However, patients, the author asserts, are the best teachers in that department, and the many stories she includes about her own struggles to communicate bear this out. In one case, she spent many visits with a patient who could not cope with multiple pills for a host of chronic conditions before discovering that all her carefully written schedules telling him when to take what were totally useless: he revealed to her that he had never learned to read. Although Ofri focuses on what doctors can do to be better communicators—e.g., focus on the patient and shut up “at least a little bit”—she offers advice to patients as well (insist on adequate time to tell your story, and prioritize what you want to talk about).

A much-needed, convincing argument that, regarding doctor-patient communication, the stakes are very high and that what patients say is all too often not what doctors hear—and vice versa.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8070-6263-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

WHY WE SWIM

A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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