Commentary by Dr. Mike Ross:
When seeking to help, one physician cautioned “It is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has.” That same healer also advised “Make a habit of two things: to help; or at least to do no harm.” Hippocrates wisely instructed young physicians twenty-five centuries ago, yet his gentle insight still offers brilliant counsel for us modern problem-solvers. Hippocrates’ teachings, ancient as they are, prove how timeless truth is, and how listening and human connection will always make the vital difference to offer authentic help and service to others, whether it’s medicine, or assistance of any kind.
Patient Stories’ Emphasize Value of Listening in Medicine
By Dr. Paul Griner
Reviewed by Sondra Forsyth on November 2, 2012
In his new book, “The Power of Patient Stories: Learning Moments in Medicine,” Dr. Paul Griner uses real-life stories culled from his 59 years as a physician to demonstrate just how crucial the doctor-patient relationship is in diagnosis and treatment.
While the book was initially intended for medical students and others training for health-care professions, reviewers have noted its articulate — sometimes poignant, sometimes humorous — case histories are equally instructive for patients.
“When medical students and physicians talk with their patients at length, when they know their history and understand what’s going on in their lives, there is less chance of misdiagnosis and a better chance of choosing the most appropriate treatment,” Griner says. “From the patient’s perspective, he or she is empowered to make informed decisions and contribute to their own care.”
“The Power of Patient Stories” shares more than 50 stories from Griner’s career as a hematologist and internist, opening the door to medical and ethical discussions by including pertinent questions with each story. Scenarios include a parent who insists her daughter not be told she has leukemia; another who begs doctors to let her son die to escape his pain; a pregnant woman who wants to defer cancer treatment until her baby is born.
“The stories were thought-provoking,” concise, and accompanied by questions that “created a learning experience for me,” writes medical student Michael Hunter of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. “It reminds me of the book ‘How Doctors Think,’ which many of my friends that are not in the health-care profession have enjoyed reading.”
About Paul Griner, M.D.
Paul Griner has had a 59-year career in medicine. He is a professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and was a consultant at the Massachusetts General Hospital, senior lecturer at Harvard Medical School, and consultant to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) in Cambridge, Mass. He has written or co-written 130 journal articles, book chapters, and books on clinical medicine, medical education, and health policy. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and was president of a number of national medical organizations, including the American College of Physicians.