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Good Reads...

Each week will provide you with a new book to explore. Check back in weekly for the latest #goodreads from GrooveMD.  


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Ronald Epstein's "Attending Medicine Mindfulness and Humanity"

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I first heard about this insightful book when my best friend and I, Marlena, were visiting our other best friend, Suzie, in Rochester, NY, to celebrate our 50th birthday in the Spring of 2021. Meeting at age 17 in our 7-year BAMD program at Brooklyn College, we had remained the best of friends, being college roommates and classmates since we were 17 years old. 


Us Generation X’ers had convened in Rochester to spend the weekend celebrating and catching up.  We were thinking about life as we were moving into the second part of our lives,  when Suzie pulled a book off her bookshelf and said, “Guess what? I’m mentioned in this book!” 


That book was “Attending - Medicine, Mindfulness, and Humanity” by Dr. Ronald Epstein and we peeked up eager to catch an earful. 


Of course, we were so proud of and thrilled for our Suzie and peppered her with questions. How? What? Why? Suzie explained that her dad had been in a bookstore and this book caught his eye. After he began to read it, he mentioned it to Suzie after he found her name in one of the chapters describing her project called  “Confessions” she created at the University of Rochester for anesthesia residents. 

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The “Confessions” project is hugely innovative, with a goal of helping “the residents grow their ability to self-regulate while building support and camaraderie”.  It’s aimed at addressing the “psychological and educational needs of the clinicians involved,” as described by Dr. Epstein. He also states that “I believe that the real power of Karan’s approach emphasizes collaborative problem solving, forgiveness and learning - all in one gesture.  This helps the residents direct their attention to what matters right now, learning from the past.  Rather than replay the events over and over; the residents could distinctly  see the events without distractions of self-blame or self-justification.”


Whoa - after rejoicing at Suzie being famous, we all became more somber as we shared some stories from our own careers as an anesthesiologist, a radiologist, and an OBGYN, If only we had had it as residents, how our careers could have been more balanced and not fraught with the various issues with which they had. Of course, I ordered his book right then and there and it was waiting for me when I returned home to Virginia where I eagerly jumped into it and couldn’t stop reading until I finished it.


The beauty and power of Dr. Epstein’s book are that he presents topics and tools that we as physicians don’t ever really even hear of in medical training, never mind learning about them or practicing them. For instance, one such tool, “Confessions,” as described above, is discussed in a chapter titled “When Bad Things Happen.”

In these superbly researched and articulated chapters, this timely and inspiring book is a must-have for all healers in health care. 


In other chapters, including those titled “Curiosity,” “Responding to Suffering,” “Beginner’s Mind: The Zen of Doctoring,” “Healing the Healer” and my personal favorite,  “Imagining a Mindful Health Care System,” Dr. Epstein outlines other tools, practices, and strategies he believes come from “understanding oneself.” This is the basic premise of this beautiful book - his belief that “the practice of medicine depends on a deep understanding between clinicians and patients.”


These tools, practices, and strategies have been collected and cultivated by Dr. Epstein over a lifetime of practicing medicine. More importantly, over a lifetime of “seeking opportunities to know himself better as a clinician and to help others do the same - ultimately to make healthcare more mindful, attentive and humane.” It is his thought that we in medicine must “show up, be present, listen and accompany patients where it matters the most.” To him, this is the definition of the title of his book – “Attending” is “a moral imperative: by being attentive, doctors not only provide the best care, but they also honor each patient’s humanity.” 


We would argue that, in being attentive, doctors honor their own humanity as well. Therefore, we at #GrooveMD believe that “Attending” should be recommended reading for all incoming medical students. 

Previous Good Reads

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