Dialogue as Cure

Author| Ben Bobrow, MD

Way back when I was a medical student, I recall one of my favorite mentors saying, “If you ask your patient what is wrong with them, then stop talking and just listen with some compassion, they will tell you everything you need to know to help them.”  Living in the country with the most technologically advanced medical system in the history of the world, where every physical complaint has a sophisticated name and a preferred pharmacological antidote, it is so easy to lose sight of this basic truism.

Unfortunately, we have traveled far in the opposite direction by systematically minimizing and de-emphasizing the priceless patient-healer interaction. This sacred communication with the power to simultaneously diagnose and heal is not stressed, required, or even reimbursed. In its place, we have inserted a few rapid-fire questions followed immediately by a prescription for a pain pill or an antibiotic.  Thank you, next patient…..

Dr. Danielle Ofri, an associate professor of medicine at NYU, shares her stories as a primary care physician and writer who has been analyzing the healing power of connecting with patients.