On Doctoring

The Making of an Anthology of Literature and Medicine

In 1989, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded the publication and distribution of On Doctoring, a book that includes short stories, poems and essays related to medicine. Simply stated, On Doctoring is about setting the tone of the medical profession—a lofty goal for a simple project. While the Foundation devotes the majority of its resources to improving the organization and financing of health services, and to changing behavior and social factors that lead to poor health, grants to improve the clinical practice of medicine are still an important part of its work.

Published by Simon & Schuster, On Doctoring contains writing that emphasizes the human dimensions of medical care. It is given to every student entering medical school in the United States. More than 200,000 copies have been distributed free and thousands more have been sold to the public. The proceeds from sales are used to buy copies for future medical students. A third edition appeared in the fall of 2001.

In this chapter, the book's editors—John Stone, a cardiologist and professor of medicine and associate dean at the Emory University School of Medicine, and Richard Reynolds, an internist, former executive vice-president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and currently courtesy professor of medicine at the University of Florida Health Science Center—offer personal reflections about On Doctoring.

Now in it's fourth edition (2007), On Doctoring continues to be distributed to every first-year student entering a U.S. medical school or osteopathic school. It is distributed with a related CD-ROM, Prime-Time Doctors, developed by Joseph Turow of the University of Pennsylvania, which RWJF has distributed annually to first-year medical students since 2003.