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Babel Series author sparks debate at UB med school

Photo courtesy of UB

Tonight's Babel Series event at Kleinhans Music Hall features best-selling author  Abraham Verghese. Born in Ethiopia and a trained physician who serves at School of Medicine at Stanford University, Doctor Verghese has a group of enthusiastic followers at the UB medical school.

"His books are filled with personal reflections. When you read them, as a physician you can't help but reflect on your own career and your interactions with patients," said Dr. Roseanne Berger, associate professor of family medicine and senior associate dean for graduate education at the UB medical school.  

"This reflection is something that we're really trying to encourage in all of all our medical students and residents, as well. So it becomes very personal."

With the help of Babel Series-sponsor the Just Buffalo Literary Center, a book discussion group emerged at UB medical school.

"We were able to attract members of the community who were book lovers, physicians in the community who were interested in reading and Verghese, medical students and residents," said Berger.

The discussions attracted about 50 people to each session.

"We talked about some of our experiences as physicians. There was discussion about the experience of patients and being a patient. So, it was a very rich discussion."

The discussions focused on two books: "My Own Country," a Verghese memoir that focused on his work during the early days of the HIV/AIDS outbreak; and a novel about the surgeon's life in Ethiopia, called "Cutting for Stone."

According to Dr. Berger, the books' themes reflect a renewed push inside the UB medical school to remind students and faculty that modern medicine, with all its advancements, still needs to focus on the patent.

"People enter medicine because they want to help other people. That's the major motivation."

But, Berger acknowledges, that motivation can become a casualty, of sorts, in the modern doctor-patient relationship where physicians work to keep up with the latest developments in care, and patients struggle through the cold, often complicated, realities of accessing and paying for health care.

In establishing  the Center for Medical Humanities, UB medical school is joining a growing trend, one that looks to consistently remind students and faculty that patient compassion needs to be an integral part of all medical care.

"The better the relationship you have with your patient, the better of a doctor you will be and the better care you will deliver. There's no question about it," Berger said.

As part of the Babel Series, best-selling author Abraham Verghese speaks at 8 tonight in Kleinhans Music Hall.