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August 28, 1996

The Secret(s) of Good Patient Care: Thoughts on Medicine in the 21st Century

Author Affiliations

SUNY Health Science Center, Syracuse Clinical Campus Binghamton, NY

JAMA. 1996;276(8):652. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540080074036

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Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) is considered by many to be the father of the essay. Here's what he said: "If others examined themselves attentively, as I do, they would find themselves, as I do, full of inanity and nonsense." Sobering advice for those wishing to take the reader through medical practice with gun and camera. That task, which has been done supremely well by some, is more difficult than it first appears.

When William Carlos Williams died we lost his genius for turning a clinical encounter into something universal. We will long await another Lewis Thomas, who lived at the right time and had a gift for framing medical life in terms of anthills and ancient rocks. Alas, few others are likely to make us wonder at the paradox of money in a physician's life the way David Hilfiker does. These exceptional talents give voice to what we experience in