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Volume 1, Issue 2
Summer 2005:

Bedside Manners: One Doctor's Reflections on the Oddly Intimate Encounters Between Patient and Healer by David Watts

Review by: Melanie Austin

Cell 2 Soul. 2005 Summer; 1(2):a3

Harmony (2005); 304 pages; ISBN: 1400080517

Be forewarned — in David Watts' new book, "Bedside Manners", you may encounter yourself. Whether cast in the role of the caring physician, the neurotic patient, an idealistic trainee, husband, or father, the sensitive reader can explore a vicarious experience in the stories of David Watts' newest book in a very honest and often revealing way.

Previously published as a poet, Dr. Watts has produced his first prose work with this collection of stories in "Bedside Manners". By his own admission, this native Texan writes: "[S]ometimes you have to go where the horse wants you to go. My horse apparently wanted prose and wanted it to speak of the struggles of doctors and patients."

Dr. Watts distills his stories from moments in the life of a seasoned physician. Some of these stories from medical school and residency training are filled with idealism and hope. Others stem from the work he has done with terminally ill patients, helping them transition to death — each along a unique path.

These tales in turn are juxtaposed against those of patients who are driven to seek care, attention and solace for factitious medical problems. Dr. Watts deftly examines how patient care can influence those personal relationships that practitioners have with their own families — affects which can heal or reveal emotional scars.

In his writings, Dr. Watts masterfully records the feelings that a patient evokes in him during a medical encounter: "A strange sense of frustration, almost impatience, came over me. I wasn't sure why." He speaks of the guilt that inevitably follows. These are feelings known only to practitioners; few will admit to having them, and thankfully patients remain unaware of them.

I found some of these patient encounters to be humorous, some ironic, others heart-breaking or frustrating, some poignant — but all authentic. As I read through these vignettes I sensed a closeness with Dr. Watts and his patients. His writings will evoke a camaraderie among physician readers — a homecoming of sorts. In the busy world of day to day practice, where the human touch is many times displaced by the endless paperwork of medical charts and insurance claim forms, Dr. Watts has found a way to acknowledge these frustrations and continue to be a compassionate physician.

A doctor to his patients and a voice for his colleagues — for those who struggle with the demands of life, family, and vocation — Dr. Watts is a healer in the truest sense. Reading these stories will change lives. They just might change your life, too.

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