The author, a young physician, guides the reader in temporal sequence through her years as a medical student, medical resident at several levels, and into the final days of her formal training. The format of the work is anecdotal, that is, a series of memorable patient encounters that seem to shape the writer's developing attitude toward her chosen profession. The precise time frame of the experiences is not clear, but this is an acknowledged story of growing into the practice of medicine as a trainee at Bellevue Hospital.

In describing her interactions with her patients, Dr. Ofri reveals her own doubts about her ability to accomplish some of the things expected of her as "healer." As she grows more confident with experience, she begins to challenge some of the rituals in which medical education seems mired. Each of the chapters is a self-contained story focused on a particular patient, some of which have been published previously as free standing essays. The composite is the physician-writer's personal narrative of her own growth and change.


The author of Singular Intimacies is a fine storyteller. Her memoir reads almost like fiction in terms of word choice and dramatization of events. This work may be productively compared to other physician narratives in which introspection about the field and the writer's sense of his or her place in medicine is explored. Works such as the early essays by Richard Selzer, Sacred Space: Stories from a Life in Medicine by Clif Cleaveland, and Eva J. Salber's The Mind is Not the Heart are but a few examples, each with its unique literary style and interpretation of what it means to become a physician. It is fascinating to compare the wide variation in tone, form of expression and attitude across the many collections extant.

In addition to the on-line video reading link above, see for a video reading of "July 1" from the book, and a reading of the story "Possessing Her Words" at:
For a reading from Ofri's latest book, Medicine in Translation, go to


One of these essays, Merced, was selected for Best American Essays, 2002. Another essays was chosen by Oliver Sacks for Best American Science Writing, 2003.



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