Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

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What makes a good doctor? It's not what you think. A doctor willing to face their own uncertainty in the face of illness and treatment might just be the best medicine.

Too often we choose the wrong doctor for the wrong reasons. It doesn't have to be that way. In The Good Doctor, Ken Brigham, MD, and Michael M.E. Johns, MD, argue that we need to change the way we think about health care if we want to be the healthiest we can be. Counterintuitive as it may seem, uncertainty is integral to medicine, and you want a doctor who knows that: someone who sees you as the unique case you are, someone who knows that data isn't everything, someone who is able to change her mind as the information changes. For too long we've clung to the myth of the infallible doctor--one who assuredly tells us this is what's wrong and here is how I will cure you--and our health has suffered for it. Brigham and Johns propose a new model of medicine, one that is comfortable with ambiguity and that centers on an equal partnership between patient and doctor. Uncertainty, properly embraced, opens a new universe of possibilities.

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Michael M.E. Johns is currently professor of medicine and public health at Emory University, where he served as chancellor from 2007 until 2012. His career at Emory began in 1996 when he was appointed executive vice president for health affairs, CEO of the Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, and chairman of the Board of Emory Healthcare. He previously served as dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and vice president for medicine at Johns Hopkins University from 1990 to 1996. Dr. Johns received his bachelor's degree from Wayne State University and his medical degree with distinction at the University of Michigan Medical School. From 1977 to 1984 he was a faculty member at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville. The recipient of numerous honors and awards, he is a member of the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) and has served in leadership positions in many organizations.