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Lemmon, B. (2008). How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman, M.D. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2007, 307 pp.. Fort Da, 14(1):90-95.

(2008). Fort Da, 14(1):90-95

How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman, M.D. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2007, 307 pp.

Reviewed by
Bronwen Lemmon, M.S., MFT

In Jerome Groopman's latest book, How Doctors Think, he shines a light on the medical world and its key players, the doctor and patient. His first book, The Measure of Our Days, appeared ten years ago, followed by Second Opinions, and, then, The Anatomy of Hope. These former titles, evocative of an urgent need, show something of Groopman's abiding quest to understand how to help patients receive better health care. He continues this aim in How Doctors Think, this time by delving into the physician's thinking and errors. He wants to understand when thinking goes well and when it doesn't. He wants to know how physicians can improve their thinking so that they may in turn provide better care and treatment to their patients. Unbeknownst to him, he has stepped fair and square into a field that psychoanalysis has been plumbing since its founding father initiated his search for better treatment for patients’ ailments. However, unlike Freud, who set out to comprehend the patient's mind, Groopman sets out to understand the physician's mind.

Groopman is a physician himself, as well as researcher, educator, and specialist of the heavy trio — oncology, hematology, and AIDS. One day, as he was conducting rounds at Harvard Medical School, he became quite disturbed by the way his students were approaching the medical puzzles that patients presented. What he observed was a lack of exchange going on between them in addition to the fact that they “all too often failed to question cogently, listen carefully or observe keenly” (p. 4). There was a paucity of deep thinking going on, and, as Groopman tells it, he felt disappointed with himself as their teacher. However, when he looked at the bigger picture, he found the changes in students’ thinking could be linked to the appearance of a more organized structure in medical school training, namely, one that teaches how “to follow preset algorithms and practice guidelines in the form of decision trees” (p. 5).

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