TALKING MEDICINE: America's Doctors Tell Their Stories by Peter MacGarr Rabinowitz

TALKING MEDICINE: America's Doctors Tell Their Stories

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Rabinowitz questioned more than 70 physicians, in training or in practice, while deciding on his own future--he's now a second-year medical student--and the 25 interviews he shares here reveal significant differences in thinking among doctors today. The subjects selected include students like himself, interns and residents, and specialists of various kinds--as well as old hands in research and administration, among them the president-elect of the AMA. Rabinowitz is not out for blood: he welcomes whatever is forthcoming (anecdotes, opinions, summings up) without challenge, and the comments he elicits are frank and relaxed--unguarded rather than off guard. There's an old GP who no longer carries malpractice insurance--an unofficial protest; a family practice physician protective of his Datsun image; the founder of a committee on the personal problems of physicians, discussing alcoholism and narcotics addiction; a doctor in the process of renouncing America for Mozambique; and Dr. Benjamin Spock on what brought him up to his unique eminence. Even medical economics are considered: a $300,000 man details his expenses--there is some justification for high fees--and another admits, ""The money that I have to charge appalls me."" At times one wishes for some backup, some documentary support for the wisdom dispensed. And there are places where the writing is loose or out of tune. (Of the AMA president, nicknamed ""the Gorilla"": ""Dr. Hunter was not one to beat his chest or rage openly."") But vanity and arrogance have not been edited out (the holistic specialist: ""I teach people how to meditate, to love themselves twenty-four hours a day whether they want to or not""), and the impressions given are unexaggerated. Rabinowitz himself, aware of common criticisms, concludes that learning medicine does harden individuals but that those who choose it don't need much conditioning. Neither superficial nor overdrawn, these are candid, many-sided views of how doctors see themselves and their work.

Pub Date: Feb. 16th, 1981
Publisher: Norton