Abraham Verghese Quotes

Abraham Verghese (born 1955) is a physician-author, Professor for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at Stanford University Medical School and Senior Associate Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine. He is also the author of three best-selling books, two memoirs and a novel. In 2011, he was elected to be a member of the Institute of Medicine

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Abraham Verghese


I think we can see how blessed we are in America to have access to the kind of health care we do if we are insured, and even if uninsured, how there is a safety net. Now, as to the problem of how much health care costs and how we reform health care ... it is another story altogether.

Abraham Verghese


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In America, we have always taken it as an article of faith that we 'battle' cancer; we attack it with knives, we poison it with chemotherapy or we blast it with radiation. If we are fortunate, we 'beat' the cancer. If not, we are posthumously praised for having 'succumbed after a long battle.'

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Modern society has evolved to the point where we counter the old-fashioned fatalism surrounding the word 'cancer' by embracing the idea of the Uber-mind - that our will possesses nearly supernatural powers.

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Students undergo a conversion in the third year of medical school - not pre-clinical to clinical, but pre-cynical to cynical.

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I still find the best way to understand a hospitalized patient whose care I am taking over is not by staring at the computer screen but by going to see the patient; it's only at the bedside that I can figure out what is important.

Abraham Verghese


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For one who has an interest in the body as text, airports are treasure troves of information. It seems almost un-American to enjoy delays, and perhaps enjoy is not the best word, but certainly a delayed flight, if it does nothing else, allows one the opportunity to make prolonged observations about one's fellow travelers.

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I've never bought this idea of taking a therapeutic distance. If I see a student or house staff cry, I take great faith in that. That's a great person; they're going to be a great doctor.

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My deceased patients have taught me over the years to believe in the glass half full, to make good use of the time we have, to be generous - that was their lesson for the Uber-mind, and it was free. 'Do that,' they said, 'and then perhaps death shall have no dominion.'

Abraham Verghese


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Literature is a beautiful way of keeping the imagination alive, of visiting worlds you would never have time to in your day-to-day life. It keeps you abreast of a wider spectrum of human activities.

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The bottom line: health care reform is about the patient, not about the physician.

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I think we learn from medicine everywhere that it is, at its heart, a human endeavor, requiring good science but also a limitless curiosity and interest in your fellow human being, and that the physician-patient relationship is key; all else follows from it.

Abraham Verghese


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My advice for writers is to get a good day job. It takes the pressure off writing if you have a job that pays the bills.

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I think America is really in denial about the degree to which residents, particularly foreign medical graduates, man the county hospitals of this country, and but for their services, I'm not sure how exactly we could manage.

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I write by stealing time. The hours in the day have never felt as if they belonged to me. The greatest number has belonged to my day job as a physician and professor of medicine - eight to 12 hours, and even more in the early days.

Abraham Verghese


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When I use the word 'healing,' by that I mean that every disease has a physical element that we're very good at handling, but there's always a sense of the violation. 'Why me?' 'Why is my leg broken on the ski trip and not anyone else's?' And I think that medicine has done a terrible job of addressing that spiritual violation.

Abraham Verghese


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