Dr. Matthew Liang, current Rx Foundation trustee, and Edward Lew have recently published a new book titled Halsted R. Holman and the Struggle for the Soul of Medicine. While the book describes major changes in medicine and the American health care system over the past 100 years – everything from the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid to the rise of health maintenance organizations and the passage of the Affordable Care Act – it follows the nation’s developments and setbacks through the lens of Holman, a doctor, scientist, and teacher.
As Dr. Liang was finishing up the book and penned the title, Holman asked him “what do you mean by the soul of medicine?” Dr. Liang explained: “it’s the relationship of a wonderful health care provider and their patient. You stand with them, even though you may not be able to fix their problem, through thick and thin”. In many ways, what Dr. Liang continued to describe to me from his conversation with Holman was more about a personal ethic and deep commitment to care; something that superseded health institutions and the somewhat transactional nature of traditional medical care in the United States. Holman, as described by Dr. Liang, has a keen sense for fostering and nurturing human connection, a deep passion for humanitarian work, and a strong set of values rooted in justice.
When I asked Dr. Liang why he focused on Holman from all the other prominent figures in the health space, he explained that Holman has an incredible ability to make you feel heard as an individual. You can feel his affection and warmth. In the preface, Dr. Liang and Lew write that “At Holman’s 90th birthday celebration and symposium at Stanford University, there was an outpouring of affection for him, a long list of people who wanted to speak. For many there that day, he had touched a part of their soul.”, emphasis added.
One could argue at the soul of medicine is human connection.
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