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A Piece of My Mind
September 17, 2019

Who Heals the Healer?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2019;322(11):1045-1046. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.14043

My patient wept as she delivered her baby, his 10 fingers and toes perfectly formed, waxy and unmoving. I wept along with her, tears coursing down my cheeks under my sterile mask, as she cradled her stillborn infant. I was early in my obstetrics and gynecology training, and up until this point, I had mostly been involved in the stereotypically happy aspects of obstetrics. The other side—the utter devastation some women suffer, whether that is through having an undesired pregnancy, a fetal anomaly, or an intrauterine demise—had been largely invisible to me. The pathos of human suffering struck a deep and resonant chord within me as I recognized that my work would encompass taking care of women at some of the worst times in their lives.

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    2 Comments for this article
    Very Well Written
    Don Setliff, M.D. | Private Practitioner
    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. You made multiple personal observations that apply to many physicians and patients. I agree with you that the "therapeutic relationship" works both ways!
    Empathy change
    Dujeepa Samarasekera, MD | Centre for Medical Education, National University of Singapore
    Excellent reflective piece. A decline in empathy could be due to many factors, as the article shared. There may be geographic differences in the development of empathy through medical education that might also be applicable in practice (1)


    1.Ponnamperuma, G. , Yeo, S. P. and Samarasekera, D. D. (2019), Is empathy change in medical school geo‐socioculturally influenced?. Med Educ, 53: 655-665. doi:10.1111/medu.13819