‘Medical Mind’ authors to keynote Cindy Wool seminar

Dr. Pamela Hartzband and Dr. Jerome Groopman (Shelly Harrison Photography)
Dr. Pamela Hartzband and Dr. Jerome Groopman (Shelly Harrison Photography)

Understanding your patient and yourself as a physician — and a human being — is the path to the best medical treatment. So say Dr. Jerome Groopman and Dr. Pamela Hartzband, authors of “Your Medical Mind: How to Decide What is Right for You.” Both Harvard Medical School educators will be the keynote speakers at the Fifth Annual Cindy Wool Memorial Seminar on Humanism in Medicine and dinner on Wednesday, April 2 at 5 p.m., at the Marriott University Park Hotel at Main Gate.

“Medicine is undergoing a transition with the use of electronic records and computers in the office,” Hartzbrand, an endocrinologist, told the AJP. “It’s been a bumpy transition. It’s a bad thing in medicine now” when doctors are checking off boxes on their computers instead of looking at patients.

“How do we help patients when there’s so much controversy among the experts about everything?” she asks. “Do you take statins or not for high cholesterol? Do mammograms save lives or are there too many false positives?” Discovering the best treatment for a specific patient “is a challenging process. We have to keep in mind why we went into this profession.”

Hartzbrand and Groopman, her spouse, started field research five years ago to determine the best way to treat patients as individuals, with different needs and views toward medicine. While other studies have looked at physician-patient communication, says Groopman, an oncologist, “We interviewed scores of patients all over the United States to define the categories” for best treatment.

The two physicians came up with three spectra of patient types in their research: minimalist to maximalist, who either believe that less is more or they want to try everything; technologist to naturalist, who want the latest breakthroughs in either area; and believers to doubters, who are either convinced they have the right answer or are skeptical about every option. Patients can also mix and match from each spectrum, says Hartzbrand, who is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and attending physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Groopman holds the Dina and Raphael Recanati Chair of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School and is chief of experimental medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess. He has authored numerous editorials on policy issues in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New Republic and Washington Post. His previous books were “The Measure of Our Days (the basis for the ABC Television series “Gideon’s Crossing,” which explores the spiritual lives of patients with serious illness),” “Second Opinions,” “The Anatomy of Hope” and “How Doctors Think.” In 1998, Groopman became a staff writer in medicine and biology at the New Yorker magazine.

Together with Hartzband, he is a bimonthly columnist for “ACP Internist,” the publication of the American College of Physicians read by 150,000 internal medicine physicians in the United States and Canada. Groopman and Hartzband are currently working on a curriculum for medical students based on “Your Medical Mind.”

Physicians have always talked about having respect for the patient, notes Groopman, but not so much how to do it. “The most important thing,” he says, “is to change the mindset to better understand their patients and themselves in the face of the gray area, the increasing controversy in how to advise patients. There is no one right answer.”

The Cindy Wool Memorial Seminar on Humanism in Medicine is sponsored by the Maimonides Society of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona in conjunction with the University of Arizona College of Medicine. The cost for the dinner and seminar is $50; admission is free for medical students. RSVP by March 21 at www.jewishtucson.org or contact Karen Graham at 577-9393, ext. 118, or kgraham@jfsa.org.