art of medicine

Does the art of medicine matter? Does it really help us become better doctors and improve results? Dr. Claudia Welch explores how the effectiveness of a physician extends far beyond the ability to prescribe correct treatments, and how mastering the art of doctoring can make the medicine more effective.
Drawing on Eastern medical traditions and experience as well as on Western science, Dr. Welch examines how we know what we know, the mechanics of doctor-patient emotional contagion, and the degree to which a patient’s sensory experience in a medical office affects their experience of treatments delivered. Dr. Welch also offers practical steps that doctors can take to cultivate more refined perceptive abilities and improve results.

Dr. Welch’s book will be essential reading for all health care practitioners interested in understanding the art of their practice and how it can enhance therapeutic outcomes, including doctors of Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, Naturopathy, as well as western medical professionals and other complementary health practitioners.


Thanks to NetGalley for offering this book for review!

I was pretty excited to see what this book would have to say about combining the tenets of Eastern and Western medicine, for there are certainly values to both. However, I was consistently underwhelmed by the author’s ideas, and some of them seemed way out there.

Perhaps it’s instinct to me that a physician cares for his patients, that he takes care of his own health, that he provides a welcoming and healing atmosphere for them. Apparently this does not always happen, as Welch puts forth all these suggestions in the book. I will say, that the idea of making waiting rooms a little quieter and mellower with soft colors and quiet music sounds wonderful. HIPAA laws force sick people to sit in rooms with the TV blaring away, lest we overhear sensitive health information belonging to other patients. There has got to be a better way, and Welch outlines this in a way that had me in full agreement. (See chapter 12, Healing Through Environment.)

However, the rest of the book was not captivating to me at all. Her suggestions for communication between doctors and patients were all spot on, but again common sense for me. Do all doctors talk the same way to everyone? I thought they were more empathetic, seeing the patient’s personality and using a method of communication modified to each person.

Another suggestion is to have longer appointments and sit quietly so the doctor can feel the patient’s vibrations and let the body tell the history. In today’s hustle and bustle double booked appointment schedule, there is probably no way any doctor will be able to sit quietly with a patient and take their pulse for 15 minutes, and look into their eyes and their soul and figure out if their Qi is unbalanced. I’m sure a little dose of slowing things down would be immensely helpful, but that’s not how it’s done in Western medicine. Perhaps this is one area that would benefit from the author’s suggestions.

Welch also talks about doctors keeping an optimistic outlook for very sick patients, saying that multiple studies have proven the effect of positivity. (Chapter 19, Choosing Hope.) That is also a no brainer for me, and seems to be the norm in my dealings with my own doctors. I’ve never had one tell me things were hopeless, and I’m also sure doctors who treat people with cancer are as supportive as they can be.

In Chapter 32, Reflections on Part III,  the author talks about the benefits of dexterity; not solely physical, but mental and emotional as well.

Practicing dexterity keeps our thinking flexible and our minds open and receptive to possibilities beyond our ability to predict. This can only further refine our confidence, humility, communication, empathy, and diagnostic accuracy, and result in better outcomes for our patients. (I)t would not be amiss to add dexterity to the list of qualities central to the art of medicine. 

This may be all I found germane in this book. Throughout the pages can be found stories  that strain credulity; such as the tale of how a guru healed a boy after all else failed, simply because the guru was leading a purified life and had disciplined thoughts. There is another story of how the author’s sister was in labor, ACTUAL labor two months early, and the power of positive thinking stopped the labor. I found that a bit hard to believe. (Or else it was Braxton-Hicks contractions, no matter what Welch says.)

When I read about a patient that had chronic yeast infections and it was determined that “astrological influences” were causing the infections, and all the woman had to do was continue taking the medication for 6 months (until the influences passed), I was ready to close the book and be done. The gap between Eastern and Western medicine is perhaps due to thinking like this.

Finally (yes, I kept reading) I reached a point where the author was talking about herbs and plants to heal. (Chapter 42, Potency.) The chapter progressed from information about biological responses, such as when plants secrete a noxious substance to protect themselves from insects, to a statement about being respectful to plants so as to preserve their healing qualities.

I agree we need to respect the Earth and treat our surroundings carefully; but I don’t feel that

If we are indifferent or violent to plants, they may alter their qualities and actions — their very chemistry — in an attempt to protect themselves from us. This may initiate a chain reaction, altering kindred plants, other species, and the environment.

At this point, I gave up reading. I felt I had nothing else to learn from the book. There are certainly practitioners and patients that will benefit from the ideas put forth in these pages, but I can’t say I agree with it all.

HOW THE ART OF MEDICINE MAKES THE SCIENCE MORE EFFECTIVE is well written, thought provoking, and does have ideas that will aid a thoughtful physician in his practice. But not everyone will agree with the Eastern medicine way of thinking.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1848192290″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].