This collection of stories offers a sidelong view of medicine from the perspective of a thoughtful, experienced doctor of internal medicine at a teaching institution (UCSF) in an urban setting that brings a wide variety of types of patients to his door.  In a context of evident respect and admiration for even the quirkiest of them, Watts admits to the kinds of personal responses most have been trained to hide-laughter, anger, bewilderment, frustration, empathetic sorrow.  The cases he recounts include several whose inexplicabilities ultimately require action based as much on intuition as on science.  He includes several stories of illness among his own family and friends, and makes it clear in others how his professional decisions affect his home life and his own state of mind.  


The stories in this volume are short, tightly focused, and engaging.  Readers come to expect surprises both in patients who ask odd questions based on wild misinformation, in the curious expectations people bring to a doctor’s office, and in the doctor’s own candid admission of uncertainties, and his inventive approaches to negotiating with reluctant patients or colleagues. Some allow a view of the intimate life of a doctor who has his own encounters with personal and family illness and loss.  Watts’s candor might take some readers aback; it certainly forfeits professional self-protection in ways many in the profession would not.  It is a valuable, highly readable invitation to reconsider the “social contract” between doctor and patient, and a reminder to remember the physician’s humanity: acknowledging it in the way Watts does is far more likely to enhance trust than to diminish it.


University of Iowa Press

Place Published

Iowa City



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