Physician's New Novel Takes Aim at Hospitalist Trend

Andrew N. Wilner, MD


June 27, 2016

A Novel Approach to a New Problem in Healthcare

Andrew N. Wilner: This is Dr Andrew Wilner, reporting for Medscape. I've come to Dallas, Texas, to interview Dr Michael Weisberg, a gastroenterologist in private practice for the past 25 years in Plano, Texas. I'm talking to him today because he is the author of a new novel, his first, titled The Hospitalist.

Mike, I understand The Hospitalist has gotten a lot of attention. You've been on public radio, you've given a lot of talks, and it's received some excellent reviews. What has excited people about this book?

Michael Weisberg, MD: I think a lot of it is that people didn't realize that this was what was going on in American healthcare now. I've awakened them to a problem, and once they experience it, they realize how bad it's been for them and their family members. Basically, what happens now is when you become sick and you need your doctor the most, your doctor no longer goes to the hospital to take care of you. Instead, you're turned over to a doctor who's never met or seen you before, who knows nothing about you. This person is called "the hospitalist." That doctor takes charge and is supposed to get you well at your sickest time.

I lived with this for years as a practitioner. I was so frustrated that eventually I felt that someone had to awaken the American people to what was going on. I was an English-literature major in college and had been a writer my whole life. I'd never written a novel before, but I'd written short stories, poetry, things like that. I felt that someone had to stand up and say something—say that this is how the system had changed, and this is why it was bad for the patient.

Dr Wilner: There are several doctors that star in The Hospitalist. One is an idealistic young man from India, who comes to the United States. I guess I was kind of disappointed, because I sensed that he sort of gets sucked up by the system. He decides to be a successful doctor, and his dream of going back to India, to the poor neighborhood where he came from, is never realized.

Dr Weisberg: He becomes a hospitalist. As you said, he is sucked up by the system. He realizes, with the lifestyle in America, how good you can have it being a hospitalist, and how it compares with the system in India where he left. Even though his family is in India, he meets a girl here in America, falls in love with her, and decides that this is where he wants to practice medicine.

I think he's true to himself, though, because he realizes that he's just a small cog in the hospital system, even in getting people well. That he is reliant on all the other people: the consultants, the other doctors. But even taking that into consideration, it's not pure medicine like he would be practicing in India. He makes the decision that this is the life that he wants.


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