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Books, Journals, New Media
September 9, 1998

Medical MemoirThe Staff and the Serpent: Pertinent and Impertinent Observations on the World of Medicine

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


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JAMA. 1998;280(10):937. doi:10.1001/jama.280.10.937-JBK0909-3-1

From the subtitle of this mostly lighthearted quasi autobiography in 22 short chapters, the reader is prepared for an apologia for the way the medical academies and health care system have devolved, and likely a reiteration of gripes against the business elements of managed care, a painfully too common topic in our literature today. Ultimately, rather than blame the author, a well-known university academician and teaching clinician at several medical schools in the Northeast, for his stewardship of the system, one can eventually recognize and identify with the foibles, traditions, anecdotes, vagaries, and pressures of the medical school and clinical research environment, with idiosyncrasies and legendary ego displays that haven't substantially changed since the beginning of the last century. The author purveys dissection and analysis of the well-documented teaching, preaching, and administrative accomplishments—much of it in a flattering light—of some of the most prominent and classic names in the lineage of modern medicine, while exploring the roles of mentors, students, and academic loners as "parent-child affairs."

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