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The Poetry of Healing: A Doctor's Education in Empathy, Identity, and Desire

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This work aims to bridge the clinical distance of medicine to face the pain of mortality, the brokenness of society and the vulnerability of human beings.


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This work aims to bridge the clinical distance of medicine to face the pain of mortality, the brokenness of society and the vulnerability of human beings.

52 review for The Poetry of Healing: A Doctor's Education in Empathy, Identity, and Desire

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    I almost didn't read this book. I was expecting a discourse on the healing power of the creative arts as an alternative therapy in medicine. Campo may write about that elsewhere, but not here. If anything, the book concerns the power of poetry for the physician in need of healing. Campo's book is part memoir, part polemic. Chiefly, it recounts his struggles to forge a single identiy as doctor, poet, Latino, and gay man. He articulates with considerable and painful clarity the many ways in which t I almost didn't read this book. I was expecting a discourse on the healing power of the creative arts as an alternative therapy in medicine. Campo may write about that elsewhere, but not here. If anything, the book concerns the power of poetry for the physician in need of healing. Campo's book is part memoir, part polemic. Chiefly, it recounts his struggles to forge a single identiy as doctor, poet, Latino, and gay man. He articulates with considerable and painful clarity the many ways in which these separate identities have been in conflict. They seem finally to come together in his role as a physician to AIDS patients. But even in that there is conflict, both with the devastating nature of the disease and the efforts of managed health care to diminish his best efforts to fulfill his calling as a doctor. As memoir, his book retraces the steps of his life journey into his profession (at the time of the book's writing he is still a young doctor, in his early 30s). We meet his Cuban-American parents, learn of his middle class suburban background, and hear of his struggles of sexual identity, which produce in him intense shame, anger and fear. We follow him to Amherst, where he meets and falls in love with a fellow med student who becomes his life partner, and from there to residency in UCSF hospital in San Francisco. He describes his bout with suspected cancer, discovered after a skiing accident. And he tells of a patient, Gary, dying of AIDS, who teaches him much about being both a doctor and a poet. As polemic, his book argues against homophobia (even as he overcomes it in himself) and its contribution to the continuing health crisis for gay men. He argues that the catch phrase "safe sex" diminishes the fragile self-esteem and challenges the identities of gay men. He argues that modern medicine, with its reliance on technology and pharmaceuticals and insistence on professional objectivity, robs young doctors of the compassion, empathy, and desire that drew them into the profession in the first place -- and thus makes them less effective in the delivery of health care. And he argues for the legitimacy of poetry as both a practice and a guiding metaphor for the role of physician. He notes that poetry and healing are both arts; one informs and supports the other. I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the practice of modern medicine, the training and self-education of physicians, and journeys of self-discovery. It is especially affirming in its embrace of same-sex affection, love, and passion. As companion volumes, I recommend two other books: Richard Rodriguez' memoir "Hunger of Memory" and Abraham Verghese's account of his experience as an AIDS doctor, "My Own Country."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Im still digesting this book. Some chapters really pulled me in, and his language was beautiful to experience. But I think I struggled in the beginning with the erotic discourse about his patients and the jumping timeline. It was humbling to have him be so honest about his biases and explain the mistakes he made, and then grew from. I often found myself having to reread passages because his language is so dense and wordy. Ultimately though, the end of the book pulled me in and I was touched by h Im still digesting this book. Some chapters really pulled me in, and his language was beautiful to experience. But I think I struggled in the beginning with the erotic discourse about his patients and the jumping timeline. It was humbling to have him be so honest about his biases and explain the mistakes he made, and then grew from. I often found myself having to reread passages because his language is so dense and wordy. Ultimately though, the end of the book pulled me in and I was touched by his conversations about identity, his empathy towards his patients, and his own trauma that he shared. Overall a worthwhile read, and perhaps one I’ll need to read again to fully grasp.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elle MacAlpine

    Honestly a little to weird for me but the author is clearly an astounding human and it was humbling to read his story.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Johanna

    This was a powerful book that will have me reflecting for a long time. I heard Dr. Campo speak about his work and his poetry in October, and was impressed with his essential humanity. The book is unlike anything else I've read ... essays/personal reflections on the intersection of being a doctor, a poet, a gay man, a Latino, and working primarily with AIDS patients. The language is incredibly rich with unexpected metaphors and descriptors ... the mind behind the language is very aware of the str This was a powerful book that will have me reflecting for a long time. I heard Dr. Campo speak about his work and his poetry in October, and was impressed with his essential humanity. The book is unlike anything else I've read ... essays/personal reflections on the intersection of being a doctor, a poet, a gay man, a Latino, and working primarily with AIDS patients. The language is incredibly rich with unexpected metaphors and descriptors ... the mind behind the language is very aware of the strengths and frailties of humans and of the health care system in America.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    A wonderfully lyrical, vulnerable memoir of identity, healing, and being a minority within a minority. Most doctor memoirs are about empowerment and the authors often write from the elevated position awarded to the physician, but I really respect that Rafael Campo, in his beautiful, rushing way, isn't afraid to come down to the patient level. He writes from the perspective of a human being, rather than a capital M, capital D. Sidenote: This is a truly terrible book title. I almost didn't read it A wonderfully lyrical, vulnerable memoir of identity, healing, and being a minority within a minority. Most doctor memoirs are about empowerment and the authors often write from the elevated position awarded to the physician, but I really respect that Rafael Campo, in his beautiful, rushing way, isn't afraid to come down to the patient level. He writes from the perspective of a human being, rather than a capital M, capital D. Sidenote: This is a truly terrible book title. I almost didn't read it because of its terrible title.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Glenn

    Very emotional, very powerful for those who are interested in medicine and healing, but language sometimes over the top. Intriguing goal, to blend poetry with a book about doctoring, to describe doctor-patient relationships poetically. Kudos for trying something new! Too many doctors' memoirs are all about ego, and written by people who can't write well. Not so with Campo. Very emotional, very powerful for those who are interested in medicine and healing, but language sometimes over the top. Intriguing goal, to blend poetry with a book about doctoring, to describe doctor-patient relationships poetically. Kudos for trying something new! Too many doctors' memoirs are all about ego, and written by people who can't write well. Not so with Campo.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Erqi

    lyrical and intelligent...unlike the dull trite accounts written by most doctors

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nina

    Through a series of essays, Campo explores his medical training and residency during the early years of the AIDS epidemic. He shares his thoughts on the intersection of medicine and poetry.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Medico

    I would definitely recommend it to all physicians who are trying to change the world, one patient at a time. :)

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jason Li

  11. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne Rose

  12. 5 out of 5

    Emily Ferrara

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kathee

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  16. 4 out of 5

    Beckina

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bo

  18. 5 out of 5

    Colleen Farrell

  19. 5 out of 5

    Shreyas Karki

  20. 4 out of 5

    David

  21. 4 out of 5

    Russell

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gabriela

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dan

  25. 4 out of 5

    Candy Pang

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  27. 4 out of 5

    Elisacantero

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ron Mohring

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Murphy

  30. 5 out of 5

    Willow

  31. 5 out of 5

    Simeon

  32. 5 out of 5

    Basak Demirhan

  33. 5 out of 5

    L.J.

  34. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

  35. 5 out of 5

    Joanne

  36. 5 out of 5

    Rahadyan

  37. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

  38. 5 out of 5

    Adithya

  39. 5 out of 5

    Karina

  40. 4 out of 5

    Gay City LGBTQ Library

  41. 4 out of 5

    Jason Lewis

  42. 5 out of 5

    Robert C.

  43. 5 out of 5

    Halan

  44. 5 out of 5

    Mick

  45. 4 out of 5

    Yunnie

  46. 5 out of 5

    BookDB

  47. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Patrias

  48. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

  49. 4 out of 5

    John Cardone

  50. 5 out of 5

    Christian

  51. 5 out of 5

    the little paris bookstore

  52. 4 out of 5

    Savannah Lorenc

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