Dear Doctor: What Doctors Don't Ask, What Patients Need to Say

Dear Doctor: What Doctors Don't Ask, What Patients Need to Say

In the form of an open letter from patients to their doctors, spiritual writer and professor of medical humanities Marilyn McEntyre brings to light the hidden fears, desperate needs, deepest hopes, and heartfelt truths that many feel doctors overlook in their approach to health care. It's a clarion call for doctors to attend to the whole person and listen deeply, rather than rush to assess a set of symptoms. And it's a letter that informs doctors of the many things that patients already know about themselves and their health.

Engaging and candid, Dear Doctor covers the basics of how patients view their time with doctors, how they want doctors to collaborate on health issues, and even how patients bring their faith and spirituality to their view of their health and their bodies. Ultimately, this book is an important first step to begin a dialogue between two communities that often have a very large disconnect.

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  • Publisher Broadleaf Books
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506460475
  • Age/Grade Range Adult
  • Dimensions 5 x 7
  • Pages 194
  • Publication Date March 2, 2021


"Dear Doctor encapsulates the relationship every patient wishes to have with his or her physician--one where patients are seen, heard, believed, and respected. Where the multiple layers that make up our identity--our faith life, nutritional and dietary needs, fears, and unique health challenges--are acknowledged and considered. For it is in a physician's ability to understand the patient as a whole rather than as solely symptoms or a health condition that needs to be treated, that true relationship and healing can occur."
—Marisa Zeppieri, founder of LupusChick and author of Chronically Fabulous
"Each of us in our maladies, ailments, sicknesses, and diseases is unique. Anyone sitting in a medical exam room can concur, we are more than the body. Communication between the clinician and the patient is crucial on every level. Dear Doctor is a must-read for both."
—Lawrence Spann, PhD, PA-C, physician assistant at Sansum Clinic, Santa Barbara, and founder of the Literature, Arts, and Medicine Program (LAMP) in Sacramento
"Dear Doctoris a love letter to the common humanity that unites patient and physician. McEntyre teaches us that every patient is not only a lesson for the doctor, but also an intriguing human being whose life enriches the doctor's experience and improves care. By reinforcing the virtues of curiosity, respect, and listening, McEntyre leads the reader, whether student, doctor, or all the rest of us, to a deep understanding of the human connection at the heart of the clinical encounter."
—Audrey Shafer, MD, author of The Mailbox
"Marilyn McEntyre's work in medical humanities helps me be a better doctor and teacher. In this book, ostensibly addressed to physicians but rich in wisdom for anyone who has a body, she inspires me to become a better patient.Dear Doctorserves as a balm for the soul and a guidebook to those fraught conversations peculiar to the 'medical encounter.'"
—Brian Volck, MD, author of Attending Others: A Doctor's Education in Bodies and Words
"Not since Anatole Broyard's Intoxicated by My Illness has there been a clearer, more eloquent and sensitive description of the qualities of the ideal professional caregiver. Although directed at physicians, Dear Doctor should be on the required reading list for all caregivers, from nurses to aides to dentists to physical therapists. One can only hope those who read this book will reflect on not only who they'd want for their ideal caregiver but, more importantly, if they measure up to this ideal."
—Richard M. Ratzan, MD, editor of Imagining Vesalius
"Marilyn McEntyre's Dear Doctoris thoroughly informed, deeply considered, and, above all, honorably invitational to physicians seeking to re-center healing in Western medicine. With great agility, McEntyre gathers and transforms the numerous facets of doctor-patient encounters into compelling overtures, inspiring nothing short of an artisanal practice of medicine."
—Colleen "Coke" Tani, MSW, MFA, interdisciplinary artist, leader of InterPlay and of Life Practice Program
"In a voice of memorable clarity and grace, Marilyn McEntyre speaks what many patients want but have not articulated to their doctors: not simply the abstractions of respect and dignity, but practices based on the belief that both parties have something meaningful, useful, even beautiful to learn from each other. Stunningly poetic in its own right, with a brilliant chapter on pain, Dear Doctor offers a delightful, useful, memorable reading experience. It is a wonderful resource for doctors and patients alike."
—Martha Stoddard Holmes, PhD, co-editor, A Cultural History of Disability in the Long Nineteenth Century