Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
October 4, 2023

Doctors speak about medical mindsets

By SAMHITA ILANGO | September 27, 2012

On September 20, Drs. Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband of Harvard Medical School presented a talk titled “Your Medical Mind: How to Decide What Is Right for You” as part of the Conversations in Medicine Symposium, and discussed their recently published book of the same name. The husband and wife duo described how people’s different mindsets affect their actions when faced with a medical dilemma. The student-organized talk was a hosted by Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-medical Honor Society (AED) and the Women’s Pre-Health Leadership Society (WPHLS).

“The current ideas for the symposium started in July with Dr. John Groopman of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, who was Dr. Jerome Groopman’s cousin, and the efforts of Dr. Verrier from Pre-Professional Advising,” Kevin Wang, co-chair of the Conversations in Medicine Symposium, said. “[Groopman and Hartzband] have been on the forefront of the ‘art of medicine’ and humanizing the patient-physician experience. It’s something that isn’t as focused on for a lot of premedical students and in the age of personalized medicine, knowing how to tailor the patient-physician experience based on each individual’s way of thinking is essential to providing quality care.”

Hartzband opened the talk by discussing how the media impacts our search for medical advice, citing examples from recent controversial Vitamin D headlines. In November 2011, The New York Times covered a story with the headline “Extra Vitamin D Not Necessary, Report Says”while The Wall Street Journal came out with a polar opposite article the same day: “Triple That Vitamin D Intake, Panel Prescribes.”

The conversation then moved on to the different facets of the individual’s medical mindset. Groopman categorized these dimensions as the “maximalist and minimalist,” “naturalism and technology” and, finally, the “believer and doubter.” Groopman probed the audience with questions to illustrate his point and let people identify the category in which they fit. For example, he inquired whether attendees would rather have the latest medical drugs as opposed to a natural remedy in order to sort the audience between the naturalist and technological mindsets.

Throughout the talk, Hartzman and Groopman gave some personal accounts to demonstrate the couple’s contrasting medical mindsets on some issues. Groopman classifies himself as a “believer and maximalist” while Hartzband identifies herself as a pure “minimalist and doubter.”

The evening continued with a question and answer segment during which Hartzman gave advice for any soon to be doctors: “Remember, you’re taking care of individuals.”

Wang believes that the students in attendance benefitted from the talk. “At Hopkins, there’s been a heavy emphasis on safety by focusing on outcomes and metrics, so Groopman and Hartzband provided a new viewpoint that would still be relevant to our interests...The delivery of quality care has been one of my main interests and informing premedical students on its significance gives them a lens to focus on.”

Wang spoke about the next “Conversations in Medicine” event: “We’re still in the process of securing further speakers related to quality and safety both from Hopkins and abroad, but we’re happy to announce that next fall we will be hosting Dr. Atul Gawande, another prolific medical writer who’s written for The New Yorker and published several New York Times bestsellers.”

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