Unfinished Symphony

The baton came down and everyone was off. I tried to catch a few notes but was immediately flailing and thoroughly lost. It went downhill from there, for a solid hour, an experience that could comfortably be compared to extended root canal, although dentists generally provide anesthesia. More

The Curious Side Effects of Medical Transparency

We demand transparency in government, charitable institutions, nutrition labels, and middle-school grading rubrics. The medical record should be no different. And yet, in writing medical notes in this new age of full medical transparency, I can feel an awkwardness creeping in. There is something disquieting about knowing that my every word might be scrutinized. More

Even with lawsuits and co-pay caps, will Insulin ever be affordable?

The sausage-making of how insulin is priced is not for the faint of heart. I’m a physician, not an economist. But the diagnosis seems plain as day: greed. Once we’ve allowed health care to be an economic entity like mobile phones, sports cars, and jewelry, all players with fingers in the pie will extract as much money from the process as the market will bear. More

Serving Patients Through a Screen

Years ago, when telemedicine first edged into my clinical consciousness, I pooh-poohed it as a second-rate simulacrum, valuable perhaps for rural communities lacking access to specialists, but otherwise hardly worth the crinkly exam paper it was replacing. I’ve staked my entire career on the irreplaceable value of the connection between patient and clinician. But I’ve changed…. More

Access to Primary Care

“Doctor, it’s taken so long to get this appointment with you!” This is the opening line of so many medical visits, and I find myself constantly apologizing to my patients on behalf of our system. After the pandemic-induced lull in routine medical care, we’re right back where we started—doctors booked for months, patients struggling to get appointments. More

Memorializing Covid

COVID-19 does not seem amenable to grand memorials, at least right now. Perhaps because the millions of deaths from COVID-19 have been diffused so widely, often in isolation—and of course still ongoing—the memorials that are starting to crop up are very human in scale. More

I Feel Safest (re Covid) in My Own Hospital

When it comes to Covid, our patients seem to be moving on. We healthcare workers, however, don’t have that option, as Covid is now the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Covid may not be the only thing on our mind as it was at the outset, but it’s still part of every staff meeting, every communication, every clinical day. More

The Beauty of Medical Language

The clinical language is so dry that it sticks in my throat like the grits they used to serve in our hospital cafeteria. It handily abides by our hospital’s infection control guidelines; the writing is so sterile that nary a staphylococcus could hope to achieve mitosis in its midst. It is as though the practitioners of the scientific literature of medicine reached a covert agreement to ban even the slightest of hint of creativity, the slimmest suggestion of beauty. Of course, it was not always that way… More

Imagining Vesalius

While we typically envision the brain as a palpable whole, the spidery latticework of nerves is a more ephemeral affair. At best the nerves come across as limp linguini, flopping languidly over whatever bone, muscle or organ offers a convenient landing pad. Seeing the nervous system entirely disembodied is revelatory. More

Covid Vaccination: the Last Mile

The COVID vaccine engenders a unique obstinacy that seems to blot out conversation. We doctors and nurses are exhorted to listen to our hesitant patients and hear their concerns, but this is difficult to do when patients don’t even want to talk. More

NPR’s Morning Edition

NPR’s Neda Ulaby interviews Danielle Ofri and Celeste Ng on “Morning Edition” about BLR’s 20th Anniversary (and how a literary journal came to be founded in a storied public hospital). More

White Hot Light

Frank Huyler was different than the other doctor-writers I’d been reading. His patients weren’t named, not even with pseudonyms. They weren’t meticulously described with MFA-honed adjectives. His language seemed ordinary, his sentence structures plain. There was no thesaurus lurking just beyond the page. But it was not a literary laziness. It was a seduction. More

Florence Nightingale in the Age of Covid-19

May of 2020 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale. That her bicentennial fell during a worldwide pandemic is both illuminating and ironic. Nightingale’s experience as a nurse during the Crimean War led her to three insights that came to define her professional life, insights as revolutionary as they were unpopular. More

The Vaccine Anthropologist

The world’s richest countries are now its most vaccine-hesitant. Can we learn to trust our shots before the next pandemic? Danielle Ofri profiles Heidi Larson, a “vaccine anthropologist,” for The New Yorker. More

Taking Stock of the Second Covid Surge

As the pandemic raged from the winter surge through to the spring slog, my Postmortem folder lit up with a dispiriting regularity. I opened it with dread as it revealed which of my patients had perished that week. More

Books by Danielle Ofri

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