Trial and Error

When I look back at the trial-and-error method of my medical training, I’m frankly horrified at what was considered a routine approach to training—placing sharp objects and critical conversations in the hands of medical fetuses and letting them loose on living, breathing patients. The practice of medicine needn’t entail actual practicing on our patients More

Visiting—and Revisiting—Anne Frank

I had read the diary in junior high school and didn’t remember much beyond the vague outlines. But reading it aloud now, with the more dramatic voicing and pace required to keep a restless kid’s attention, I found the book absolutely mesmerizing. It was impossible to put down. More

Empathy in the Age of the EMR

We doctors have been reduced to tools of mere data entry. A higher being might peek into our exam room and be unable to distinguish the doctor from the sphygmomanometer. There is at least one upside to this mess, however. The aggressiveness of the EMR’s incursion into the doctor-patient relationship has forced us to declare our loyalties: are we taking care of patients or are we taking care of the EMR? More

A Tense Moment in the ER

The hospital, by definition, is a stressful place for patients and families unsettled by the vulnerabilities of the human body. Add in issues of race, class, gender, power dynamics, economics, and long wait times, and you have the ingredients for combustion just hankering for tinder. More

In Search of a Beloved Teacher

“Written and Illustrated by…” These words were written on a blackboard in September, 1971, in crisp, authoritative chalk. This was practical magic, unfolding on our laminate pressboard desks every single day. Ms. Zive handed us power, and it was exhilarating. More

Lancet review of “What Patients Say; What Doctors Hear”

“For all the sophisticated diagnostic tools of modern medicine, the conversation between doctor and patient remains the primary diagnostic tool.” This idea lies at the heart of Danielle Ofri’s new book What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear, in which she acknowledges, dissects, experiments with, and analyses the complexities and miscues of the patient–doctor exchange. More

Losing a Patient

He made his way into my exam room supported by two metal crutches that braced at the elbow, lurching his withered legs forward, step by excruciating step. He was a wisp of a man, barely clocking in at 100 lbs—wasted away, it looked like, from untreated polio and a lifetime of subsistence living. Yet somehow here he was in bustling Manhattan, having managed to navigate our bureaucratic hospital system just a few months after arriving from East Africa. More

Racing the Diabetes Marathon

Diabetes can feel relentless and obstinate. Is there a toenail or ribosome out there that is not suffused by the tenacious diabetic tentacles? More

Lancet review of “What Doctors Feel”

What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine is as close to a page-turner as a clinician’s story is likely to become. What Doctors Feel deserves to be well received and widely read. More

Mensches with MDs

All religions have weighed in on the thorny ethical controversy of when life begins. In the Jewish faith, however, there is consensus: the embryo is only viable once it graduates medical school. More

Pharma in the Jungle

How to make pharmaceutical R&D worthy of James Bond-like drama. It’s not easy, but Anne Patchett gamely tries. An American drug company based in the dull stretches of Minnesota is racing to develop the holy grail of fertility drugs—a simple pill to allow women to get pregnant at any age. The stockholders are rubbing their palms rapaciously at the mere thought. More

A “Difficult” Patient’s Journey

Chloë Atkins is the type of patient that every doctor dreads—presenting with a plethora of symptoms that don’t offer any obvious medical explanation. There are multitudes of such patients in a general practitioner’s roster and most, thankfully, will not turn out to have a serious illness. But there are a few who do, and as Atkins’ book points out, this can be a harrowing experience. More

For Whom Do We Write

Was writing simply cathartic, an unloading of pent-up frustration, pain, occasional exhilaration? Or was this part of a nobler cause, something that would fall under the purview of healing, something with ultimate benefit for my patients? For if it wasn’t the latter, was I not simply exploiting my patients for their readily accessible drama? More

Neuron Overload

Sometimes it feels as though my brain is juggling so many competing details, that one stray request from a patient—even one that is quite relevant—might send the delicately balanced three-ring circus tumbling down. One day, I tried to work out how many details a doctor needs to keep spinning in her head in order to do a satisfactory job, by calculating how many thoughts I have to juggle in a typical office visit. More

Abortion: The View From Both Sides of the Street

A dispassionate discourse on the abortion wars in America? Not something that seems possible, at least in the current polarized culture in the United States. Into the fray comes the documentary “12th and Delaware,” a quiet movie that seeks to illuminate rather than bully. More

Books by Danielle Ofri

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