An assortment of clinical musings from the forefront of patient-centered medicine.
Physician and medical educator Launer (Sex Versus Survival: The Life and Ideas of Sabina Spielrein, 2015) collects material from his columns that have appeared in two medical journals. Focused on the science of medicine and the delivery of patient care, the essays also share intimately personal insights about the author’s life as a husband and father and his lifelong passions. Launer draws largely on the stories of his patients and how their suffering and discomfort requires that a compassionate physician act “as a whole person.” The author directly addresses industry indifference and the lost art of listening and how exhibiting true interest in a patient’s pain can make a difference. In several pieces, Launer confesses to experiencing this lack of empathy himself as a patient—e.g., the time he, during a routine cardiac stress test, endured “a needless act of emotional abuse where kindness would have required little effort.” The author’s infuriating lifelong battle with eczema reveals a doctor at his most human and also offers some sound thought processes for readers coping with chronic conditions. Other pieces briefly discuss choices in health care, sexuality, and the dilemma of “career patients,” and Launer also includes a time-demarcated essay on the contents of his workday, revealing the frantic, contract-centered corporate side of medicine. Most pieces are brief—some just a few pages in length—but each represents a facet of the medical world that the author has either learned from or experienced firsthand. As a professional open to change and perspective, Launer is able to channel these lessons back into his practice, hoping the result will prove compassionate and proactive for his patients and his practice.
Humorous, poignant, provocative, and educational, the author’s opinions and anecdotes offer fresh takes on the ever changing field of medicine and how small changes in patient care have the potential to inspire radical improvements in the industry at large.