A Book for Patients and their Doctors
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About the author
David Mendel (1922–2007) was born in East London. He was a poor student and applied to medical school on a whim after discovering that he wasn't suited for his father's millinery business. He contracted tuberculosis while at his first hospital job and was confined to bed for six months, after which he spent time as a ship's doctor. In 1960 he was hired by St. Thomas's Hospital, London, where he would stay for more than two decades, working as a senior lecturer and a specialist in cardiology. During these years he wrote the well-regarded textbook The Practice of Cardiac Catheterisation and acquired a reputation as a popular and lively teacher. Mendel retired from medicine in 1986, moving to a cottage in Kent with his wife, Margaret, and earning a degree in Italian from the University of Kent. From then until his death he occupied himself playing the flute, building furniture, and publishing essays on Italian subjects, particularly about his friend, the chemist and writer Primo Levi.
Jerome Groopman is the Dina and Raphael Recanati Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of Experimental Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He has published more than 180 scientific articles, is a staff writer at The New Yorker, and most recently, the coauthor of Your Medical Mind.
“People come to us for help. They come for health and strength.” With these simple words David Mendel begins Proper Doctoring, a book about what it means (and takes) to be a good doctor, and for that reason very much a book for patients as well as doctors—which is to say a book for everyone. In crisp, clear prose, he introduces readers to the craft of medicine and shows how to practice it. Discussing matters ranging from the most basic—how doctors should dress and how they should speak to patients—to the taking of medical histories, the etiquette of examinations, and the difficulties of diagnosis, Mendel moves on to consider how the doctor can best serve patients who suffer from prolonged illness or face death. Throughout he keeps in sight the fundamental moral fact that the relationship between doctor and patient is a human one before it is a professional one. As he writes with characteristic concision, “The trained and experienced doctor puts himself, or his nearest and dearest, in the patient’s position, and asks himself what he would do if he were advising himself or his family. No other advice is acceptable; no other is justifiable.”
Proper Doctoring is a book that is admirably direct, as well as wise, witty, deeply humane, and, frankly, indispensable.
New York Review Books
; September 2013
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Title: Proper Doctoring
Author: David Mendel; Jerome Groopman
In the press
“A remarkable collection of observations, aphorisms, and grandfatherly advice . . .” —Annals of Internal Medicine
“David Mendel was an exceptionally talented individual, a polymath whose career was never confined to his profession of cardiology…As skilled with his tongue and pen as he was with a stethoscope . . . Mendel was a superlative teacher of medical students . . . His informal and easy style of writing did not disguise the wisdom and humanity of the content.” —Desmond Julian, The Independent
“Proper Doctoring is a gem for physicians, future physicians, and clinicians of all types. Written in small paragraphs, it presents advice to practitioners, much like the old fashioned homily, and contains many brief examples and aphorisms. . . . The reviewer recommends the book for its grace, honesty, and integrity.” —American Psychological Association
“Good doctors are often too busy to write such a book and we are fortunate that someone of Mendel’s stature has taken the time and trouble to do so. None of us should be too busy to read it.”
—David Hay, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine