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Slow Medicine
Cover of Slow Medicine
Slow Medicine
The Way to Healing
Borrow Borrow
"Wonderful... Physicans would do well to learn this most important lesson about caring for patients." The New York Times Book Review

Over the years that Victoria Sweet has been a physician, "healthcare" has replaced medicine, "providers" look at their laptops more than at their patients, and costs keep soaring, all in the ruthless pursuit of efficiency. Yet the remedy that economists and policy makers continue to miss is also miraculously simple. Good medicine takes more than amazing technology; it takes time—time to respond to bodies as well as data, time to arrive at the right diagnosis and the right treatment.

Sweet knows this because she has learned and lived it over the course of her remarkable career. Here she relates unforgettable stories of the teachers, doctors, nurses, and patients through whom she discovered the practice of Slow Medicine, in which she has been both pioneer and inspiration. Medicine, she helps us to see, is a craft and an art as well as a science. It is relational, personal, even spiritual. To do it well requires a hard-won wisdom that no algorithm can replace—that brings together "fast" and "slow" in a truly effective, efficient, sustainable, and humane way of healing.
"Wonderful... Physicans would do well to learn this most important lesson about caring for patients." The New York Times Book Review

Over the years that Victoria Sweet has been a physician, "healthcare" has replaced medicine, "providers" look at their laptops more than at their patients, and costs keep soaring, all in the ruthless pursuit of efficiency. Yet the remedy that economists and policy makers continue to miss is also miraculously simple. Good medicine takes more than amazing technology; it takes time—time to respond to bodies as well as data, time to arrive at the right diagnosis and the right treatment.

Sweet knows this because she has learned and lived it over the course of her remarkable career. Here she relates unforgettable stories of the teachers, doctors, nurses, and patients through whom she discovered the practice of Slow Medicine, in which she has been both pioneer and inspiration. Medicine, she helps us to see, is a craft and an art as well as a science. It is relational, personal, even spiritual. To do it well requires a hard-won wisdom that no algorithm can replace—that brings together "fast" and "slow" in a truly effective, efficient, sustainable, and humane way of healing.
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  • From the cover One

    On the Cusp of Aquarius

    It started at a particularly unusual time.

    All times are unusual, of course, never to be repeated, one of a kind, but this time and place were especially unusual. A revolution was brewing and I was at the center of it, though I didn't know it. Just around the corner from my university was Xerox PARC, where Steve Jobs was being entranced by the mouse and imagining a personal computer. Thirty-five miles to the north was Haight-Ashbury, with its hippies and their counterculture, a revolution of color, scent, sex, and style. Fifty miles to the northeast was Berkeley, where students were occupying parks and making radical demands, and forty miles to the south was Santa Cruz, where the organic food movement was sprouting.

    And I was in college, living in a rather strange house that would affect my point of view for the rest of my life.

    I'd been in a dormitory until the university, in a first tick of that clock of revolution, rescinded its rule that women live on campus, check into their dormitories before midnight, and see male guests only downstairs. So I began to look around for a different kind of place, and I found it on a bulletin board in the Student Union:

    "American family recently returned from Switzerland seeks university student for extra bedroom."

    I telephoned and then went over to take a look at the room and meet the family.

    The house was just five miles from the university, in the hills where the rich lived in a kind of rural simulacrum, down-to-earth and expensive. I drove down the private lane; in the field on my right, three horses were grazing; in the driveway, chickens were scratching. Jane, the wife, answered the door, and then she showed me around.

    The house had been built by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright's, she told me, and it was sprawling, made of adobe and wood, with exposed beams, a heated red concrete floor, and an enormous fireplace with built-in seats. The architect had spared an old oak and built the house around it, so there was a tree growing up through the middle of the living room and out the roof to the sky. Then she took me into the garden, where zucchini and tomatoes were growing in the midst of roses, and then around to the back and I saw the extra bedroom. It had a Swedish slat bed, a sit-down shower, and a teak deck, and looked out onto the Coast Range. It was exotic and peaceful, and I took it.

    In that house I would get to be a sort of hippie.

    "Sort of" because it was a nice house near the fine university I attended, I was supported by my parents, and I didn't take drugs. "Hippie" because we experimented. The Neumanns had just returned from Switzerland after a twelve-year stay, and their three daughters, though in theory American, spoke English with a Swiss-German accent. They brought back with them the Swiss living they'd learned: washing on Monday, ironing on Tuesday, waxing the floors on Wednesday. Also the six-month supply of food mandated in Switzerland, which were forty-pound tins in the garage, of wheat, rye, and beans.

    They also brought back with them a certain worldview. It was what the French call the longue durŽe, and very different from my American worldview. From its perspective, the Romans had only been passing through, and the Middle Ages were not so long ago. The Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment were recent, and America was a charming, puzzling blip on the...
About the Author-
  • Victoria Sweet was a physician at San Francisco's Laguna Honda Hospital for more than twenty years, an experience she chronicled in God's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine. An associate clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, she is also a prizewinning historian with a Ph.D. in history and social medicine, and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.
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    All copies of this title, including those transferred to portable devices and other media, must be deleted/destroyed at the end of the lending period.

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Slow Medicine
The Way to Healing
Victoria Sweet
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