Bookmarks Issue: 

A-How Doctors ThinkSometimes, all the medical technology in the world is no match for a solid doctor-patient relationship. In occasionally unsettling detail—for example, he tells of an 82-pound young woman who suffered one wrong diagnosis after another for two decades and offers an entire chapter on the inexact science of reading life-and-death test results—Dr. Jerome Groopman establishes his thesis: today’s doctors should rely less on first impressions and stereotypes; rather, they should focus on listening and looking at all the available information before making a diagnosis. Groopman writes from vast experience—not all of it good—and offers patients strategies for interacting with their doctors, as well as questions that might make the prospect of a future trip to the doctor more bearable.
Houghton Mifflin. 320 pages. $26. ISBN: 0618610030

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"This elegant, tough-minded book recounts stories about how doctors and patients interact with one other. … Here is Groopman at the peak of his form, as a physician and as a writer." Michael Crichton

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"[Groopman’s] book contains all kinds of smart, often selfless, occasionally heroic doctors making good decisions and sometimes saving lives. … It is an effort to dissect the anatomy of correct diagnosis, successful treatment and humane care—and also of diagnostic error, misguided therapy and thoughtless bedside manner." David Brown

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Through the interviews [Groopman] conducted with physicians from a variety of specialties, he lets us know that patients are more vulnerable than ever in the current fast-paced medical system. His book, and the thinking that inspires it, provide valuable insights that may be just the right medicine." David Kessler

Boston Globe 3 of 5 Stars
"How Doctors Think offers patients some insight into the general shapes and contours of how doctors make life-enhancing or life-threatening decisions. … What the book does not fully address, and I think too many medical consumers refuse to contemplate, is the unsettling acceptance that mistakes are inimical to the practice of medicine." Howard Markel

Chicago Sun-Times 2 of 5 Stars
"Groopman explores how doctors diagnose and treat illnesses, a process that remains as much an art as a science. Unfortunately, the book reads less like his New Yorker essays and more like a succession of the TV series House, in which the series star is a cranky medical genius who always pushes the envelope in employing risky but life-saving techniques on his patients with bizarre symptoms." Jim Ritter

Cleveland Plain Dealer 2 of 5 Stars
"[The book] loses steam when it shifts beyond the realm of neuroscience to explore external influences on medical decision-making. … . While medical students would certainly benefit from reading How Doctors Think, it’s less clear what value the book holds for a general reader." John Vaughn

Critical Summary

Jerome Groopman, Harvard professor of medicine, AIDS and cancer researcher, and New Yorker staff writer in medicine and biology, isn’t new to the popular medical-writing scene. Before How Doctors Think, he penned three other books—The Anatomy of Hope, Second Opinions, and The Measure of Our Days—that explore the role of art in the hard science of medicine. Here, Groopman’s readable prose emphasizes the human element, the give-and-take so important to successful diagnosis and treatment. One critic, however, compares the book’s medical pyrotechnics to an episode of the medical show House, while another takes issue with the author’s stance against Big Pharma. For the most part, critics see Groopman’s latest effort as a compelling meditation on the interactions between doctors and patients—an effort reminding us that mistakes and miscommunications can be minimized but not eliminated.