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Episodes of On Becoming a Healer, a podcast hosted by Saul Weiner and Stefan Kertesz. Follow them on Twitter @OnHealer or email OnBecomingaHealer@gmail.com.

Doctors are too often trained, socialized and pressured to become efficient task completers rather than healers, which leads to burnout. Two physicians, Drs. Saul Weiner and Stefan Kertesz, consider how joy in clinical practice requires the capacity to fully and openly engage with patients while maintaining personal boundaries – and doing so in an environment and culture that pushes them in the opposite direction. They explore themes of judgementalism, empathy, ego, and caring, and explore how self-knowledge is essential to effective medical practice, mentoring, medical education, and a fulfilling career. This podcast is builds on Dr. Weiner’s book, On Becoming a Healer: The Journey from Patient Care to Caring about Your Patients (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020).

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About the hosts:

Saul J Weiner, MD is an internist and pediatrician who has taught medical students and residents, and studied physician-patient interactions for over 20 years. In 2001 he published a short essay about how he survived medical school with a learning disability, and discovered that being open about his struggles seemed to be more helpful to people than any research he published.  This discovery, along with the profound guidance of a mentor  — Simon Auster, led him to write On Becoming a Healer: The Journey from Patient Care to Caring about Your Patients.  Saul plays the classical guitar (as heard on the Podcast). He can be reached at sauljweiner@gmail.com

Stefan Kertesz, MD, MSc is a physician in internal medicine and addiction medicine. He has focused his clinical work and his research on how to improve care for populations facing challenges related to combinations of homelessness, complex illness, addiction and pain. Stefan first wrote about homelessness as a high school newspaper columnist. He developed a passion for fencing in middle age, and has loved video games since his teens. Stefan can be reached on Twitter @StefanKertesz 

Saul and Stefan at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Gabon, West Africa, on a 4th year medical school elective in 1992, with the Ogooué  River in the background.

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this podcast are those of the hosts and their guests and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of their universities or of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States government. This podcast is never intended to provide medical advice.

  • Kind People on Airplanes
    Lately we've been hearing about bad behavior on airplanes. Here we discuss an incident in which a passenger unselfconsiously stepped up at an inconvenient time to assist a group of passengers in a tough spot. Saul and Stefan reflect on the qualities of people who go through life making the…
  • When an attending yells at a resident
    Our guest, a physician a few years out of residency, describes an experience from her training when an attending yelled at her and hung up the phone when they were discussing a patient.  We talk about resident abuse, its impact on patient care, and what can be done about it. 
  • When your patient has a Swastika tattoo
    Our guest, a resident physician, describes her reaction and what followed, when she discovered a symbol of hate tattooed on her hospitalized patient's leg.  Most of us appreciate that as physicians we don't get to choose who are patients are, and that all deserve good care. But is there more…
  • About me being racist: A conversation that follows an apology
    Saul reached out to a former colleague whom he worked with closely so that he could apologize for something he did many years ago that he now sees as racist. Saul is a white man and his former colleague, a subordinate at the time, is a black woman. Because of…
  • The Dartmouth Debacle: Why the culture of medical education needs to change
    In a widely reported incident, Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine accused, suspended and expelled medical students for cheating based on faulty data -- and then retracted the decision amidst a large public backlash. During the episode students were allegedly given only 2 minutes to defend themselves and were encouraged to…
  • Vaccine Hesitancy and the Doctor-Patient Relationship
    A primary care doctor in solo practice in a small mid-west city who is deeply trusted by his patients talks about talking about vaccine hesitancy.  
  • Engagement and Boundary Clarity:
    We feel safe and can open up in conversations when there is full and open engagement combined with a clear, respectful sense of personal boundaries.  Why are such exchanges so rare and yet so important to medical practice and to the good life? 
  • Judgementalism
    Physicians are neither judges nor God, and yet we seem prone to judge our patients...and ourselves. Saul and Stefan discuss. 
  • Contextualizing Care: What it means and why it matters
    Saul and his research team have listened to and analyzed thousands of audio recordings of medical encounters for clinician attention to the life context of each patient when planning their care. Here is what they've learned.   
  • Part 2: International Medicine
    In Part 2 of our interview with Dr. Bhalla, hear what makes for a good fit for a long term career practicing medicine and leading projects in international settings
  • Part 1. International Medicine
    A physician describes what attracted her to international medicine where she’s worked for Doctors Without Borders in many challenging places. Guest: Naina Bhalla MD, MPH   Intro and Outro are Prelude by J.S Bach, arranged by Sophocles Papas, with permission from Carl Fischer. Also, Largo from Four Seasons by Vivaldi,…
  • My Learning Disability
    Stefan interviews Saul about his experiences becoming a doctor with a learning disability, leading to questions such as: Does struggling with multiple choice tests mean you won't be a good doctor? How do grades shape our self image and the culture of medicine? 
  • Asking patients "Why?"
    What should a doctor do when  a patient behaves in a way that doesn't seem to make sense?  Saul and Stefan discuss a case. 
  • Part 2: “This is what I trained for.”
    In Part 2 of our interview with Dr. John Scala, hear how an experienced primary care physician in solo practice responds to the pandemic, particularly as he thinks about the physician-patient relationship, the well being of his staff, and personal risk. 
  • Part 1: Meaning and Joy in Solo Practice
    A primary care physician describes why he's loved being a solo doctor, mostly avoiding corporate medicine.  His patients love him too. Learn how and why this kind of practice is still possible.  
  • Part 2: Hope and Healing for Those Who Follow
    Dr. Conway responds to violence and hopelessness in her community, traumatized by systemic racism, by establishing the I Am Abel Foundation as a haven and resource for young people aspiring to careers in medicine. 
  • Part 1: Pursuing a Dream and a Calling
    Dr. LaMenta Conway shares what she experienced and learned growing up in an economically and socially marginalized community in Chicago, pursuing a dream to become a physician. 
  • Forced Opioid Taper
    A middle aged man had been on a high but stable dose of opioids for years for chronic pain.  His provider decides to wean him. He says "I'm not sure I can handle it," but they keep going.  Is this what a caring or evidence-based physician would do?  
  • Airplane Guy
    What's a better way to pick a student for medical school: High MCAT scores or seeing them help a vulnerable stranger when it's inconvenient and they think no one's watching? Reflections on healing as an organizing principle.
  • Patient Abuse
    A very bright physician scares a patient from a marginalized community out of the ER with a nasty prank -- and "I laughed too."  How does this happen? Saul Weiner reflects on a moment from residency.
  • The "Difficult" Patient
    A patient got labelled as "difficult" who really wasn't so difficult, and it cost him his life.  Where did things go wrong? Details changed to assure patient confidentiality.
  • Introducing: On Becoming a Healer
    Introducing a new podcast that takes a critical look at medical training and the culture of medicine. Explores how interpersonal boundary clarity and the capacity to fully engage are essential to effective medical practice, mentoring, medical education, and a nourishing career. Designed to challenge you, help you grow, and prevent…