2019 Summer Reading for Compassionate Clinicians

Each summer, we compile a list of intriguing new books that might help strengthen clinicians’ commitment to compassionate care of both patients and themselves. This list of 10 thought-provoking reads is in alphabetical order by author. Nancy Young, Lesley Miller, Roxy Misty, and Brianne Alcala contributed to the 2019 list. Which ones are you most looking forward to reading? Share this list on social media and tag us!

Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life by Dr. Louise Aronson The idea that aging is a disease, and the way that belief guides healthcare decisions, can be as crippling as any physical disease. Dr. Louise Aronson, a geriatrician, medical professor, and Gold Professor, culls 25 years of experience as a doctor, daughter, and patient in her call for a transformation of not only of how we treat people who are aging – literally, all of us – but how we see the process itself. Kaiser Health News called Elderhood “an in-depth, unusually frank exploration of biases that distort society’s view of old age and that shape dysfunctional health policies and medical practices.”

Art & Anatomy: Drawings by Laura Ferguson and Katie Grogan From NYU’s School of Medicine comes an interesting book: a project combining humanism and mindfulness into the art of human anatomy. This book contains dozens of sketches of human body parts created during NYU School of Medicine’s “Art & Anatomy” drawing seminar on Tuesday evenings. In this book, we see medical students, physicians, and others not only memorizing complex anatomy, but also celebrating the uniqueness of the human body. Bonus: Dr. Danielle Ofri, a wonderful physician author, has written the introduction.

A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death by Dr. BJ Miller and Shoshana Berger It may be the one experience everyone shares, but dying and death are too often shrouded in silence, awkwardness, and regret. In a Beginner’s Guide, Dr. BJ Miller and Shoshana Berger provide both practical and profound advice on how to live when you or a loved one is dying. The book covers everything from navigating the healthcare system, to telling friends and family you are dying (and learning to face unexpected or disappointing reactions) to delivering a great eulogy. Dr. Vivek Murthy, former U.S. Surgeon General  and a Gold Foundation National Humanism in Medicine Medal recipient, said of the book, “There are many times in my personal life and my medical education when I could have used this book. In their clear and compelling guide, Miller and Berger help us understand how to approach one of the most important but least understood phases of our life. Their honest reflections and sharp insights will change lives for the better.”

That Good Night: Life and Medicine in the Eleventh Hour by Sunita Puri Facing mortality is a definite for all of us. Why is it so hard to talk about with our patients and others? Dr. Sunita Puri reflects and shares her experience as a palliative care physician on the need to be able to communicate openly and honestly with dying patients and learn what the patient wants, needs, and feels. Doctors are so often focused on extending life that they overlook what patients value and actually want to tolerate. A review in The Atlantic said of the work, “Puri focuses on the struggle to accept limits in our mortal life and in our medical culture.”

The Empathy Effect by Dr. Helen Riess Dr. Helen Riess, a long-time Gold Foundation grantee and leader in humanism, is Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Director of the Empathy and Relational Science Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Chief Scientist for Empathetics. In her new book, Dr. Riess details the power of empathy with compelling stories and studies and then shares her EMPATHY program, step by step. The Empathy Effect is designed to help the reader increase empathic behavior and recognize and reverse dehumanizing tactics, as well as to help build empathy in others. Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, said of the work “Empathy has always been a secret strength of the healer’s art. In The Empathy Effect, Dr. Helen Riess, a compassionate physician herself, updates this ancient tool, making it a practical and accessible skill for anyone in the healing professions – and everyone else, too.”

Salt in My Soul: An Unfinished Life by Mallory Smith We all live our lives with a time limit. Few of us think about that fact. Mallory Smith was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of three and would die of the disease at the age of 25. Ms. Smith knew cystic fibrosis would cut short her life, but she would grow up to become an advocate for others with the disease. Finally, she became an author as she gave her mother permission to publish her diary posthumously. This book describes her life living with a chronic disease and fighting hard to live a normal life, with empathy. In the book, Ms. Smith writes, “It looks different for everyone, but we all have our own struggles, each and every person I see on the street. I have to remind myself not to envy those whose lives look normal, because their mountains do exist even if they are less obvious than mine.”  According to a review in The New York Times, “This is a deeply moving book full of wisdom about health, life, and love – and about the importance of finding happiness where and whenever we can.”

Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Health Care Human Again by Dr. Eric Topol Often cutting-edge medical technology and compassionate, humanistic care are set up as opposing poles – you can have one, or the other, but not both. Dr. Topol, a cardiologist and geneticist, dispels this myth with Deep Medicine, which demonstrates how Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology could be used in the service of human-centered care. By taking on the tasks AI is equipped for, doctors can be free to spend time doing what only humans can do – such as really listening to and connecting with their patients. Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, cardiologist and author of the best-selling The Emperor of All Maladies, said of Topol’s work, “A compulsively readable, elegantly written, important account, Deep Medicine will fundamentally change the way you view the future of medical technologies and their impact on our lives.”

Compassionomics: The Revolutionary Scientific Evidence That Caring Makes a Difference by Drs. Stephen Trzeciak and Anthony Mazzarelli These two physicians dove into the research on compassion to find out whether it really matters – and they discovered a vast treasure trove of studies. In this compilation, they lead us through summaries of studies that show the impact of compassion on healthcare, on patient experience and outcomes, clinician well-being, the financial bottom line, and more. Well-researched, this book is invaluable to both bolster the reader’s belief in the impact of compassion and to spread the word to others. This treatise is essentially the proof behind the Gold Foundation’s long-standing message that healthcare isn’t optimal unless it is compassionate, collaborative, and scientifically excellent. Dr. Donald Berwick, president emeritus of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, said of the work, “Compassionomics provides the evidence that one simple tool, compassion, can affect not only the outcomes for our patients, but also the financial health of our organizations and the well-being of our providers.”

Still Life with Monkey by Katharine Weber Katherine Weber’s novel explores the life of a newly paralyzed man, Duncan, and his capuchin monkey service animal named Ottoline. His wife, Laura, hopes that with the aid and support of Ottoline, Duncan will be able to reengage in life, rather than live a life contemplating death. In the book, Ottoline is trained by the fictional Primate Institute that is based on an organization in Boston called Helping Hands, which trains capuchin monkeys to assist people with mobility impairments. “Still Life With Monkey is profoundly humane even while it’s asking the most difficult questions,” according to a review in The New York Times.

The Unwinding of the Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams This chronicle by a woman diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer in her 30s, is drawn largely from a blog, in which Julie Yip-Williams shared her deep love of her young daughters, railed against the unfairness of the disease, detailed the treatments and the side effects — both emotional and physical — and came to grips with the terrible outcome. Last year, at age 42, Ms. Yip-Williams died. Her intimate, unvarnished writing about a life with cancer brings a greater understanding of the journey through a deadly disease. Dr. Sanjay Gupta said, “In The Unwinding of the Miracle, we are treated to a beautifully written story that is also at times brutally candid about the realities of her cancer diagnosis and treatment. It is increasingly rare to find such an authentic voice, one that will inform and inspire you.”

See 2018 Summer ReadingSee 2017 Summer ReadingSee 2016 Summer ReadingSee 2015 Summer Reading