The Good Doctor: Why Medical Uncertainty Matters

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By: Brigham, Kenneth; Johns, Michael M. E.
2020 | Hardcover
ISBN is 9781609809966 / 1609809963
Publisher: Seven Stories Press

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What makes a good doctor? It’s not what you think. A doctor willing to face their own uncertainty in the face of illness and treatment might just be the best medicine. Too often we choose the wrong doctor for the wrong reasons. It doesn’t have to be that way. In The Good Doctor, Ken Brigham, MD, and Michael M.E. Johns, MD, argue that we need to change the way we think about health care if we want to be the healthiest we can be. Counterintuitive as it may seem, uncertainty is integral to medicine, and you want a doctor who knows that: someone who sees you as the unique case you are, someone who knows that data isn’t everything, someone who is able to change her mind as the information changes. For too long we’ve clung to the myth of the infallible doctor–one who assuredly tells us this is what’s wrong and here is how I will cure you–and our health has suffered for it. Brigham and Johns propose a new model of medicine, one that is comfortable with ambiguity and that centers on an equal partnership between patient and doctor. Uncertainty, properly embraced, opens a new universe of possibilities.

Ken Brigham

About the Author: Excerpt from Kenneth Brigham at : I have always enjoyed writing of all kinds. Communication is the life blood of any successful academic career and much of that is in the written form. And, I have come to believe that the truth about who we are and what we are about is not the private territory of scientists, that scientific and other non-fiction writings are only part of the human story that is often told with more impact, clarity and truth in works of fiction. I have had the good fortune to have lived a fascinating life. Raised on a small farm near Nashville, I was part of a singing group in the late 50’s and early 60’s that had a top 5 selling record and interrupted my college career for year while I travelled about with various popular singers of the day. It was an education of another sort for a seventeen year old who had never set foot outside Tennessee. It also earned me enough money to see my way through college and much of medical school. As an academic physician I’ve had the phenomenal opportunity to travel throughout most of Europe, Japan, China, Australia, the Philippines and a lot of other places. The real opportunity was to do that not as a tourist, but as a guest of gracious local people who were proud to share their unique cultures. Even more important has been the experience to share the intimate details of the lives of all kinds of people in all kinds of circumstances, often life or death ones. I also had the life-changing experience of dealing with my own cancer, an experience I would not have chosen, but that made me a different and I think better person. I live with my lovely wife, Arlene Stecenko, in a loft in midtown Atlanta where I spend my days writing and doing the daily necessities. I retired from the faculty at Emory University Health Sciences Center recently after a long career in academic medicine. My professional education was at Vanderbilt, Johns Hopkins and the University of California San Francisco and my academic career was at Vanderbilt and for the past ten years at Emory. Arlene is also a physician on the Emory faculty. Visit his website at

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