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When Dr. Eric Manheimer joined Bellevue Hospital as its Medical Director 14 years ago, he learned firsthand the realities of an inner city hospital and the patients it served – patients he described as people with so many stories, like layers on an onion that very few doctors are able to pull away. His insights would become the basis for his book, Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital (Grand Central Publishing, 2012). In the book, which he presented at a NYAM Author Night event on September 19, 2012, he focuses on twelve individuals who not only suffer health problems but life’s own maladies, from immigration and the cost of health care to obesity and teen suicide, by using his unique vantage point from the board rooms to the emergency room.
“These were the most important stories, twelve patients who were emblematic of society’s problems,” Dr. Manheimer said. “They are problems not only facing our society but the entire U.S. the health care system.”
One patient in particular, Juan Guerra, a 59-year-old patient suffering from throat cancer, has spent half of his life in prison because of drugs. In light of his illness, Guerra, who served in Vietnam and subsequently became addicted to heroin during his tour of duty, would soon leave prison under a compassionate release program. Dr. Manheimer explains that people like Juan are doomed to a life of bad luck. He was once arrested, he said, for walking his grandson’s dog without a leash simply because a rookie cop was out to beef up his arrest quota. He never killed or harmed anyone, just slowly killing himself on drugs.
Other patients in his book face similar challenges, ending up in Bellevue and becoming part of a system that neither wants them nor can provide them with the intensive services they need to function in normal society.
“Years ago I started keeping a journal and then I had the idea of twelve patients,” Dr. Manheimer said. “Each chapter would have a self-contained medical drama in which the vital signs would be just the beginning of a patient’s story,” he said.
Dr. Manheimer is an Internist who trained at Kings County Hospital and spent seventeen years at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center before becoming the Medical Director of Bellevue Hospital over the past 14 years. He has recently stepped down, taking a position at the NYU Langone Medical Center as the Medical Director of the Faculty Practice and inpatient quality and resource utilization issues.
Dr. Manheimer’s book can be found in bookstores, on Amazon.com and on iTunes, read by Dr. Manheimer.
Posted on September 21, 2012
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