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Attending Others: A Doctor's Education in Bodies and Words

Attending Others: A Doctor's Education in Bodies and Words
$25.00

Becoming a doctor requires years of formal education, but one learns the practice of medicine only through direct encounters with the fragile others called "patients." Pediatrician Brian Volck recounts his own education in the mysteries of suffering bodies, powerful words, and natural beauty. It's a curriculum where the best teachers are children and their mothers, the classrooms are Central American villages and desert landscapes, and the essential texts are stories, poems, and paintings. Through practices of focused attention, he grows from detached observer of his patients' lives into an uneasy witness and grateful companion. From the inner city to the Navajo Nation and from the Grand Canyon to the mountains of Honduras, Volck learns to listen to children unable to talk, to assist in healing when cure is impossible, and to love those whose life and experiences are radically different from his own.

This is not a how-to book or a brief for reforming medical education. Attending Others is a highly personal account of what the author learned about medicine after he completed his formal education. The short answer, it turns out, is pretty much everything.

Brian Volck is a good listener. More to the point, and unlike most of his professional peers, he is a terrific writer. His stories of attending to others are artful but without artifice; the lessons he shares and the means by which he shares them reflect erudition and wry wit. But what comes through most in this deeply humane book is wonderment and gratitude for the privilege of serving the sick. --Paul E. Farmer, MD, PhD, Kolokotrones University Professor, Harvard University, Co-founder of Partners in Health, Author of Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues, Biography, Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

"Your medical education and practice have taught you the art of learning stories. By schooling better known to you than me, you have acquired the art of telling the stories you have learned. As a story-teller you are an excellent artist. I know this because you are able to reveal, in no more words than necessary, not only how you do your work, but more importantly, why." --Wendell Berry, from a letter to the author

"Brian Volck's stories are not just about medical life, though medicine is his profession, his vocation, and a frame and focus of the stories that make up this rich memoir. Attending Others refers to much more than medical care in these stories about learning to live among and love a Navajo community in New Mexico, rural folk in Honduras, and urbanites in Baltimore and Cincinnati. The attention Volck pays is deeply relational, informed by complex, resilient family life and a mindful, openhearted spirituality that draws him to the desert in whose silence he weaves words into life-giving stories about those who have been his teachers as he attended them. He invites his readers into a vision of healing and wholeness that begins and ends in resilient humor and deep humility." --Marilyn McEntyre, Adjunct Professor of Medical Humanities, UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program; Author of Patient Poets: Illness from Inside Out and Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies

Brian Volck is a pediatrician and writer with an MD from Washington University in St. Louis and an MFA in creative nonfiction from Seattle Pacific University. His first collection of poetry, Flesh Becomes Word, was released in 2013. His essays, poetry, and reviews have appeared in America, The Christian Century, DoubleTake, Health Affairs, and IMAGE.

ISBN/SKU: 
9781620327289
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