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Incidental Findings: Lessons from My Patients in the Art of Medicine

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In Singular Intimacies, which the New England Journal of Medicine said captured the "essence of becoming and being a doctor," Danielle Ofri led us into the hectic, constantly challenging world of big-city medicine. In Incidental Findings, she's finished her training and is learning through practice to become a more rounded healer. The book opens with a dramatic tale of th In Singular Intimacies, which the New England Journal of Medicine said captured the "essence of becoming and being a doctor," Danielle Ofri led us into the hectic, constantly challenging world of big-city medicine. In Incidental Findings, she's finished her training and is learning through practice to become a more rounded healer. The book opens with a dramatic tale of the tables being turned on Dr. Ofri: She's had to shed the precious white coat and credentials she worked so hard to earn and enter her own hospital as a patient. She experiences the real "slight prick and pressure" of a long needle as well as the very real sense of invasion and panic that routinely visits her patients. These fifteen intertwined tales include "Living Will," where Dr. Ofri treats a man who has lost the will to live, and she too comes dangerously close to concluding that he has nothing to live for; "Common Ground," in which a patient's difficult decision to have an abortion highlights the vulnerabilities of doctor and patient alike; "Acne," where she is confronted by a patient whose physical and emotional abuse she can't possibly heal, so she must settle on treating the one thing she can, the least of her patient's problems; and finally a stunning concluding chapter, "Tools of the Trade," where Dr. Ofri's touch is the last in a woman's long life.


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In Singular Intimacies, which the New England Journal of Medicine said captured the "essence of becoming and being a doctor," Danielle Ofri led us into the hectic, constantly challenging world of big-city medicine. In Incidental Findings, she's finished her training and is learning through practice to become a more rounded healer. The book opens with a dramatic tale of th In Singular Intimacies, which the New England Journal of Medicine said captured the "essence of becoming and being a doctor," Danielle Ofri led us into the hectic, constantly challenging world of big-city medicine. In Incidental Findings, she's finished her training and is learning through practice to become a more rounded healer. The book opens with a dramatic tale of the tables being turned on Dr. Ofri: She's had to shed the precious white coat and credentials she worked so hard to earn and enter her own hospital as a patient. She experiences the real "slight prick and pressure" of a long needle as well as the very real sense of invasion and panic that routinely visits her patients. These fifteen intertwined tales include "Living Will," where Dr. Ofri treats a man who has lost the will to live, and she too comes dangerously close to concluding that he has nothing to live for; "Common Ground," in which a patient's difficult decision to have an abortion highlights the vulnerabilities of doctor and patient alike; "Acne," where she is confronted by a patient whose physical and emotional abuse she can't possibly heal, so she must settle on treating the one thing she can, the least of her patient's problems; and finally a stunning concluding chapter, "Tools of the Trade," where Dr. Ofri's touch is the last in a woman's long life.

30 review for Incidental Findings: Lessons from My Patients in the Art of Medicine

  1. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    This is great reading for any new physician! After losing the "humane" part of medicine during training, this book reminded me why I started the long journey in the first place. This is great reading for any new physician! After losing the "humane" part of medicine during training, this book reminded me why I started the long journey in the first place.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kristin

    In an instance of why judging a book by its cover would be wrong, I nearly didn't purchase this book when I saw it at the store. The author bears a strong resemblance to a couple professors I knew in college who were still living in the hippie mindset, and coupled with the title's reference to the 'art of medicine', I was concerned she was a new age practitioner who would be talking about her unconventional methods of doctoring. However, it couldn't be farther from the truth, and is one of the b In an instance of why judging a book by its cover would be wrong, I nearly didn't purchase this book when I saw it at the store. The author bears a strong resemblance to a couple professors I knew in college who were still living in the hippie mindset, and coupled with the title's reference to the 'art of medicine', I was concerned she was a new age practitioner who would be talking about her unconventional methods of doctoring. However, it couldn't be farther from the truth, and is one of the better physician autobiographies I read in a long time. As she notes at the end of the book (don't worry, not a spoiler), some of the stories she tells were written in real time, as she was actually seeing and treating the patients she refers to. Might be the first such book where the patients contribute to the editing. Ofri is normally a clinic physician, so I'd say about 3/4 of the stories are about the patients she sees from all walks of life, on an outpatient basis, while the others are patients she sees on her month long stints covering an inpatient unit at Bellevue Hospital in New York. Not all of the outpatient stories come from her New York clinic, as there are some from the early part of the book when she was trying to figure out where to settle down and did fill-in work in doctor's offices very different from the multicultural, often low-income population she sees at Bellevue. There are also some reflections from her days as a doctor in training as they apply to the current patient whose stories she is telling. Overall, I thought it was a very well-balanced book, which begins and ends with Ofri's own experience as a patient in her medical network when she was expecting her first child and some of the chapters also include related stories about her family members when they parallel a work experience. While I of course wish it was longer, I didn't get the feeling of incompleteness I sometimes feel after reading a book that could be twice as long as it actually is. Perhaps it's because she alludes to her first book a couple times, one I'm sure to read, if I haven't already.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Calamus

    Dr. Ofri may not have House’s attitude or Meredith Grey’s love life, but she captures the drama of the hospital as well as any Hollywood scriptwriter. Told in mostly chronological vignettes, Dr. Ofri shares with us the trials and tribulations of the patients she meets while working her way from intern to attending. She takes us into the lives of patients from all walks of life—immigrant workers, famed academics, and even her own time as a patient during the birth of her first child. Ofri is a re Dr. Ofri may not have House’s attitude or Meredith Grey’s love life, but she captures the drama of the hospital as well as any Hollywood scriptwriter. Told in mostly chronological vignettes, Dr. Ofri shares with us the trials and tribulations of the patients she meets while working her way from intern to attending. She takes us into the lives of patients from all walks of life—immigrant workers, famed academics, and even her own time as a patient during the birth of her first child. Ofri is a remarkable storyteller from both the doctor and the patient perspective and through these stories the reader understands the empathy she has towards her patients and fellow medical professionals. Incidental Findings doesn’t take a hard look at the failings of the medical industry, nor does it introduce the latest medical research or retell the story of an amazing medical discovery. Instead, Incidental Findings reminds us not to forget that every patient has a story and, in a teaching hospital like Bellevue, it’s not the doctors who are doing all the teaching. Dr. Danielle Ofri is an attending physician at Bellevue Hospital, an associate professor at the New York University School of Medicine, and author and founder of the Bellevue Literary Review. Incidental Findings: Lessons From My Patients in the Art of Medicine is her second book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Biogeek

    An excellent collection of "lessons" a doctor can learn from her patients. Definitely reminded me of Oliver Sacks, but with more on the workings inside a doctor's mind. I love her focus on the human story beyond the medical symptoms. Companion article: http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01.... My favorite chapters are the ones that describe the regular day in the hospital, and of course "SAT". Ofri does a wonderful job of describing the ethical decisions a doctor has to make all the time. Should An excellent collection of "lessons" a doctor can learn from her patients. Definitely reminded me of Oliver Sacks, but with more on the workings inside a doctor's mind. I love her focus on the human story beyond the medical symptoms. Companion article: http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01.... My favorite chapters are the ones that describe the regular day in the hospital, and of course "SAT". Ofri does a wonderful job of describing the ethical decisions a doctor has to make all the time. Should more time be spent with patient A than patient B? Should a patient receive medication every time they ask for it? And who gets to make these decisions?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jenni Ogden

    Danielle Ofri writes movingly about people from many countries, who, like most of us at some time in our lives, become patients of the medical system. As a doctor in the USA medical system, her stories are about immigrants to that country who not only have to deal with their medical condition and all that goes along with getting treatment for it, but have to find their way through the cultural complexities of simply living in the USA. "Cross-cultural" medicine and health care generally is a mass Danielle Ofri writes movingly about people from many countries, who, like most of us at some time in our lives, become patients of the medical system. As a doctor in the USA medical system, her stories are about immigrants to that country who not only have to deal with their medical condition and all that goes along with getting treatment for it, but have to find their way through the cultural complexities of simply living in the USA. "Cross-cultural" medicine and health care generally is a massive and difficult topic, and Ofri's very personal stories about her own connections as a doctor to her other-cultural patients make an important and very readable contribution to this area.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    Ofri examines all the parts of being a medical doctor that disturb her in the series of essays that make up this book. Why do doctors ignore the parts of life of their patients that take place outside the hospital? What is true about the details patients report to their doctors? How does a doctor determine what is true? What can a doctor do to treat a patient when the life elements that need treating lie beyond the realm of medicine?

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Day

    Insights about illness from a doctor's perspective Ofri's collection of essays is best when it describes the intricacies of a patient's symptoms, especially when there are cultural or language differences. Where the book doesn't shine is the slightly too often self-aggrandizement, the reinforcement of doctor-as-omniscient myth that many people believe. Perhaps an essay devoted to a misdiagnosis or other lapse in judgment could have humanized the author a bit more. Insights about illness from a doctor's perspective Ofri's collection of essays is best when it describes the intricacies of a patient's symptoms, especially when there are cultural or language differences. Where the book doesn't shine is the slightly too often self-aggrandizement, the reinforcement of doctor-as-omniscient myth that many people believe. Perhaps an essay devoted to a misdiagnosis or other lapse in judgment could have humanized the author a bit more.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    Very well-written account of some of the insights Dr. Ofri has gained from her patients and by being a patient herself (tables turned). It focuses largely on the human condition, particularly among the marginalized, and on medicine in a big teaching hospital. I enjoyed reading it, hope to read more of her work.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Valentina Chiriac

    I have expected something else... something different than some stories about unfortunate people that make a doctor reconsider his/her privileged position... I have little knowledge about doctors and medicine in the US, but this book does not give me a good feeling. Dr. Ofri humanity and kindness towards her patients seem like personal options, something that she learned, not something natural.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kbeckermann

    This is a wonderful book on so many levels. The humour, observations, and honesty made me stop and reflect on the interactions I have with different people and the incidental findings I have had over the years. Even if you don't work in health-care and have never been a patient, this book will give you lots to think about. This is a wonderful book on so many levels. The humour, observations, and honesty made me stop and reflect on the interactions I have with different people and the incidental findings I have had over the years. Even if you don't work in health-care and have never been a patient, this book will give you lots to think about.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Danielle Ofri! You are such an insightful writer! I like how all of her stories are grounded in everyday realities but she manages to take away a lot of lessons from such encounters. She's a different writer than Atul Gawande - more practitioner than pet cuase champion, but she also has a gift with words. Danielle Ofri! You are such an insightful writer! I like how all of her stories are grounded in everyday realities but she manages to take away a lot of lessons from such encounters. She's a different writer than Atul Gawande - more practitioner than pet cuase champion, but she also has a gift with words.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne

    Interesting essays on being a doctor in various venues. Bellevue Hospital in New York City is her home hospital, so that is always good for drama. The essays usually dealt with one particular patient at a time and gave insight as to how the doctor reacts to common patient concerns.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Fidget

    Whether you are a healer, doctor, social justice advocate ... Whether you are a healer, doctor, social justice advocate, this book has words and concepts that can focus your awareness; give pause for pondering; and help you explore choices in your circle of life.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne

    I encountered Danielle ofri listening to a moth podcast.I so enjoyed her story of her early medical training at Bellevue.then I found out she wrote books..this was wonderful..so full of insights, .humor and truths about Dr/patient relationships

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bea Lathrop

    Interesting book especially if you are considering in going into the field of medicine.

  16. 4 out of 5

    jisun

    first-hand, real stories. great book. some good quotes, and some deep insights about women in medicine.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    Well written and poetic.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kunal

    Gives a good perspective if you're going into medicine Gives a good perspective if you're going into medicine

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    More fascinating medical stories from Ofri.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Apallant

    I love Danielle's "voice" I think she really captures the doctor patient relationship but also lets you get a glimpse of the struggles, dilemmas and support a caring doctor might provide. I love Danielle's "voice" I think she really captures the doctor patient relationship but also lets you get a glimpse of the struggles, dilemmas and support a caring doctor might provide.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kolumbina

    An interesting memoir of a young physician Dr Danielle Ofri and her early work experience in US, in Bellevue Hospital. Each medical case mentioned in this book was fairly interesting and unique considering that various people react different in similar circumstances. Learned a few new things. In the last chapter of the book the author described her own experience in the hospital where she delivered her own child. Intersting ! There were a few annoying instances in the book where D. Ofri described An interesting memoir of a young physician Dr Danielle Ofri and her early work experience in US, in Bellevue Hospital. Each medical case mentioned in this book was fairly interesting and unique considering that various people react different in similar circumstances. Learned a few new things. In the last chapter of the book the author described her own experience in the hospital where she delivered her own child. Intersting ! There were a few annoying instances in the book where D. Ofri described a couple of her patients as wearing polyester clothes and their hair colour came from the bottle ..., but D. Ofri was a beginner. ... Will read more by D. Ofri.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rosanna

    I love Danielle Ofri's first book, so looked forward to reading this one. Her writing style was just as good but the chapters were much more like very short essays. I didn't get the involvement in the personal story that I wanted. Just as I was getting captivated it ended. Also some of the chapters were so laden with metaphors that it grated a little. I love Danielle Ofri's first book, so looked forward to reading this one. Her writing style was just as good but the chapters were much more like very short essays. I didn't get the involvement in the personal story that I wanted. Just as I was getting captivated it ended. Also some of the chapters were so laden with metaphors that it grated a little.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    This is a well-written and fascinating book, with chapters telling about different aspects of the author's work in a teaching hospital in New York. This is a well-written and fascinating book, with chapters telling about different aspects of the author's work in a teaching hospital in New York.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mia

    Dr. Ofri may not have House’s attitude or Meredith Grey’s love life, but she captures the drama of the hospital, from both the doctor and the patient perspective, as well as any Hollywood scriptwriter. Told in mostly chronological vignettes, Dr. Ofri shares with us the trials and tribulations of the patients she meets while working her way from intern to attending. She takes us into the lives of patients from all walks of life, immigrant workers, famed academics, and even her own time as a patie Dr. Ofri may not have House’s attitude or Meredith Grey’s love life, but she captures the drama of the hospital, from both the doctor and the patient perspective, as well as any Hollywood scriptwriter. Told in mostly chronological vignettes, Dr. Ofri shares with us the trials and tribulations of the patients she meets while working her way from intern to attending. She takes us into the lives of patients from all walks of life, immigrant workers, famed academics, and even her own time as a patient during the birth of her first child. It is through these stories, and Ofri’s knack for storytelling that we see the empathy she brings with her to every patient. Incidental Findings doesn’t take a hard look at the failings of the medical industry, nor does it introduce the latest medical research or retell the story of an amazing medical discovery. Instead, Incidental Findings reminds us not to forget that every patient has a story and, in a teaching hospital like Bellevue, it may not be just the doctors doing the teaching.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ali

    Yet another book by a physician reflecting on their patients and life. I enjoyed reading this book and I think the author does a good job of telling her patients' stories. She incorporates her travel experiences and bravely tells the story of her own abortion to match her patient's story. However, this book is more about her than her patients and doesn't offer anything new. Yet another book by a physician reflecting on their patients and life. I enjoyed reading this book and I think the author does a good job of telling her patients' stories. She incorporates her travel experiences and bravely tells the story of her own abortion to match her patient's story. However, this book is more about her than her patients and doesn't offer anything new.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Anne Zeorlin

  27. 4 out of 5

    Robert White

  28. 5 out of 5

    Vivian

  29. 5 out of 5

    Joan

  30. 4 out of 5

    Abigail Senkal

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