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Physicians turn to books to better understand patients, selves

Between seeing patients, performing procedures and, if they're in the academic world, publishing papers and teaching students, it would seem unlikely that physicians have loads of time to curl up with a good book. But according to the Associated Press, doctors and other health-care professionals are meeting in book clubs with "increasing regularity." And such clubs, which focus on medical-themed literature, seem to bring multiple benefits:

A 2005 study by [the Maine Humanities Council's literature and medicine program] showed that participants reported greater empathy for patients and colleagues, higher cultural awareness, increased job satisfaction and improved interpersonal skills.

"The program reminds them why they got into the profession in the first place," [Elizabeth Sinclair, council coordinator] said.

Stanford physician-author Abraham Verghese, MD, whose career has explored the connections between literature and medicine, also weighs in:

Verghese agreed that patient empathy is at the heart of the humanities in medicine movement. He also advocated for a more physician-centric outlook.

"There's a great hunger in clinical practice for discussions and explaining and reconciling the things you're seeing," he said. "It's as much about the physician as it is about the patient."

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