- Listen to Ron's Interview with Dr. Jay Baruch -
Experiencing the ‘Tornado’ of Life of an Emergency Physician
Many of us have been to an emergency room during our lifetime, but rarely have we had the opportunity to see it through the eyes of someone like Jay Baruch—a veteran emergency physician who is also an extraordinary storyteller. In today’s episode, Dr. Baruch will share his wide-ranging—often surprising—experiences in emergency medicine, many of which are described in his new book, “A Tornado of Life: A Doctor’s Journey Through Constraints and Creativity in the ER.” He'll offer a sample of his short, profoundly affecting stories, where it becomes clear that the biggest part of an ER doctor’s work is often caring for people who come in, not only with medical problems, but with social and emotional issues—sometimes all of them at once. Patients like Cheryl, who told Dr. Baruch that he felt “stuck in a tornado of life”; and Fawn, a homeless woman with a history of drug addiction, but whose only request for treatment was “a hug.” Dr. Baruch will explain how he views medicine as a fundamentally creative act, much like his writing, and how the arts and humanities are essential clinical skills for embracing the complexity and uncertainty at the heart of clinical decision-making and patient care. (Indeed, he discovered over the years that he’s a better doctor when he’s writing.) Dr. Baruch will also talk about what he learned as a patient, himself, in the ER; what we should be teaching students in medical school that we’re not; and how we need to change the way we view doctors, illness, and the “emotional and moral contact sport” that is emergency medicine.
Jay Baruch, a practicing emergency room physician, is Professor of Emergency Medicine at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School and the author of two award-winning short fiction collections, “What's Left Out” and “Fourteen Stories: Doctors, Patients, and Other Strangers.” His new book is “Tornado of Life: A Doctor’s Journey through Constraints and Creativity in the ER” (MIT Press, August 2022). His short fiction and essays have appeared in medical and literary journals and lay media outlets that include the Boston Globe, STAT, WBUR Cognoscenti, New England Journal of Medicine, Academic Medicine, Medical Humanities, Journal of Medical Humanities, KevinMD, and others. Dr. Baruch lectures nationally on topics ranging from humanities as clinical skills, the importance of creativity in medicine, narrative risks at the bedside, writing and medicine, creative writing, and medical ethics. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island.