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September 16, 1988

When Doctors Get Sick

Author Affiliations

University of Pittsburgh Health Center

University of Pittsburgh Health Center


edited by Harvey Mandell and Howard Spiro, 464 pp, $25, New York, Plenum Medical Book Co, 1987.

JAMA. 1988;260(11):1628. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03410110136046

This is a one-of-a-kind book that relates the self-told stories of 50 physicians who have struggled with being sick. Unlike textbooks that detail the pathophysiology and clinical symptoms of disease, this book provides an understanding of the human element of illness. Each author in the course of a few pages shares his or her experience, in some instances pseudonymously, and reflects on its personal impact. The editors skillfully group similar illnesses and categorize them into cardiovascular disease, orthopedic-neuromuscular conditions, neuropsychiatric disease, cancer, and chronic illness, to name a few.

The accounts are dramatic. They are emotionally charged yet relate the detailed thoughts of trained observers. The perspective of a patient who was previously a caretaker is fascinating. Although no two people share the same experience, there are common themes to be found. Each contributor recognizes the uniqueness of the doctor/patient relationship. There is a desire to be treated as any