As a physician and teacher at the oldest public hospital in the United States, and as a writer and literary editor, Dr. Danielle Ofri speaks with unique insight into the practice of medicine in America.
She is an attending physician in Bellevue Hospital’s medical clinic, which has been the home of the most extraordinary human stories throughout its long history in the nation’s most diverse and complex city.
In her practice and as an Associate Professor of Medicine at New York University, Dr. Ofri has focused on reaching the real humanity of her patients and on teaching young doctors to how to do the same.
She is medicine's leading proponent of the power of story — and of literature — to teach healthcare providers and to improve the practice of medicine.
With award-winning stories of her experiences as a doctor, she also brings to general audiences first-hand accounts of the joys and challenges of medical practice, rich insights into how the healthcare system works, and poignant reflections on the human condition.
She is the author of several acclaimed books on life in medicine and patient care. Her newest book, What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine explores the hidden emotional world of the doctor and its impact on patient care. Her previous books include Medicine in Translation, Incidental Findings and Singular Intimacies.
Dr. Ofri's writings have been included in Best American Essays 2005 & 2002, and Best American Science Writing 2003. She received the Missouri Review Editor's Prize for nonfiction, and the McGovern award from the American Medical Writers Association.
"A born story-teller and a born physician…"
— Oliver Sacks
In her books and articles, Danielle Ofri has developed a signature style that combines compelling narrative with thoughtful reflection and focused reporting. She focuses on characters, the real people she cares for in her practice and their stories. These she uses to uncover the mysteries of human life and human nature, to explore the joys and problems of modern medical practice, and to ask questions about society's priorities.
Her newest book, What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine explores the hidden emotional world of the doctor and its impact on patient care.
Danielle's previous book, Medicine in Translation: Journeys with My Patients, brings her unique voice and extraordinary perceptiveness to the experience of immigrants in the American medical system. Like her other books, the setting is the medical melting pot of New York City's Bellevue Hospital. This time, the characters are people who face more than just the challenge of their illness. Their languages, their cultures, complicated past, and often their legal status all make their stories more stirring than most.
Her first book, Singular Intimacies: Becoming a Doctor at Bellevue, is regarded as one of the classic accounts of medical school and residency. By focusing on the emotional development of doctors, Ofri gives an insider’s account of what goes on beneath the white coat. With engaging prose and insight, this book distills "the essence of becoming and being a doctor" (New England Journal of Medicine).
Ofri’s second book, Incidental Findings: Lessons From My Patients in the Art of Medicine, is a sophisticated and thoughtful analysis of how doctors learn from patients. Including her own illuminating experiences of being a patient as well as teaching the next generation of doctors, Incidental Findings dissects the complex layers of modern medicine. If you’ve ever wanted to understand the person in whom you entrust your life, this is the book to read. Booklist calls it "An exceptional series of introspective essays." Incidental Findings is frequently used for book discussion groups with the
Reader's Guide from Beacon Press.
In The Best of the Bellevue Literary Review, Dr. Ofri and her co-editors have assembled a powerful and eloquent collection of poetry, fiction, and essays from The Bellevue Literary Review. An exhaustive
study guide has made this anthology popular with students, book groups, and staff development groups. NewPages.com says, "No human thing is more universal than illness, in all its permutations, and no literary publication holds more credibility on the subject than The Bellevue Literary Review."
- Associate Professor of Medicine, New York University
- Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief, Bellevue Literary Review. Editor, The Best of the Bellevue Literary Review.
- Author, Medicine in Translation, Singular Intimacies and Incidental Findings.
- Guest columnist, The New York Times' Well blog.
- Essays and reviews published in The New York Times, New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, The Los Angeles Times, and on NPR.
- Writings included in Best American Essays 2005 & 2002 and Best American Science Writing 2003.
- Recipient, the Missouri Review Editor's Prize for nonfiction
- Recipient, McGovern award from the American Medical Writers Association
- Associate chief editor of the award-winning textbook The Bellevue Guide to Outpatient Medicine
- PhD, pharmacology; MD; internist in internal medicine
Danielle tailors each presentation to the needs of her audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest her range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.
Patient Safety and the Human Condition
Patient safety is a critical issue in medicine today. There is, rightly, a strong emphasis on systems approaches to improving medical care and decreasing error. However, medicine is fundamentally a human endeavor, and in the end it is people, not systems, who cause medical errors. Without attention to the human aspects of the medical enterprise — emotions, respect, relationships — crucial aspects of patient safety will remain beyond our grasp.
Surviving Medicine in the 21st Century
Disillusionment in medicine feels like it is reaching epidemic proportions. Doctors and nurses say they would never choose the field if they had to do it all over again. Medical error and burnout seem to be everywhere. But it might be too soon to close the book on the medical profession. This presentation examines the impact of disillusionment, highlighting strategies for re-engaging caregivers, combating burnout, and thriving in the new era of medicine.
The Amygdala and the Stethoscope: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine
Despite our commitment to the scientific method, doctors are not nearly as rational and evidence-based as we tell ourselves that we are. Emotions permeate our clinical decision-making, whether we choose to acknowledge this or not. The presentation offers an unflinching look at the how emotions affect doctors and the medical care they are able to give their patients.
Multiculturalism and Diversity
Like all areas in our culture, medicine faces many challenges in our multicultural society. Stereotypes can subtly undermine medicine's commitment to patient care. With a candid assessment of how biases infiltrate medicine, this presentation focuses on creative ways to bridge cultural gaps.
Why Should Lawyers Care What Doctors Feel?
Lawyers tend to meet up with doctors only in the charged setting of medical malpractice, when doctors are radically changed from their usual selves. Geared towards risk managers, this presentation examines the how doctors commit errors, hide errors, and alter their medical practice because of errors. It digs deep into the harrowing experiences of physicians who’ve experienced medical error and malpractice suits, illuminating the powerful emotional challenges to all who are involved.
Technology in Medicine
Technology is transforming medicine at a breathless pace. From computerized treatment algorithms to electronic medical records, every aspect of medicine has been refashioned by the digital revolution. What is the impact of this ongoing metamorphosis? How has the doctor-patient relationship been altered? This presentation digs beneath the technology to examine how doctors and patients can still connect.
Medical Error and the Ethics of Apology
As evidence mounts about the human cost of medical error, society is scrambling to find ways to contain this “epidemic.” At the heart of the issue is how to coax a culture of secrecy and guilt into the light. Do doctors and nurses have the capacity within themselves to come forward and admit these errors? This presentation explores how medical personnel face the delicate issue of apologizing to a patient.
Why Would Anyone Become a Doctor?
Medicine is increasingly portrayed as a field that no one in their right mind would consider: the debt burden for medical students is gargantuan, regulations strangulate the practice of good medicine, litigious patients lurk in every corner, doctors are disillusioned in droves. Is this all really true? This presentation is geared toward an undergraduate and general audience, examining the current state of medicine, focusing on what it really means to be a doctor today, and why some of us wouldn’t give it up for the world.
Bringing Back the Humanity to Medicine
Despite enormous advances in healthcare, patients and doctors alike are dissatisfied with their experience. Seeking inspiration from the gripping narratives of urban medicine to the unlikely poetry of the ICU, this presentation probes the most fundamental aspect of medical care — how doctors and patients connect.
Professionalism is a hot-button issue in the medical world. As the field comes under assault from all corners, health care workers can feel besieged and demoralized. Seeking inspiration from Chekhov, Sports Illustrated, and the legions of patients in a doctor’s life, this presentation strives to help physicians — especially those in training — avoid becoming ungrounded and losing their sense of self. An unusual look at medical professionalism.
Doctor-Writers: An Epidemic?
More than any other field, medicine seems to inspire writing. Doctor-writers seem to be everywhere these days, giving rise to a new set of ethical dilemmas. This presentation illuminates the inherent connections between story-telling and medicine in a way that is accessible to a wide-ranging audience.
A top United States medical university:
Your presentation was WONDERFUL! You truly are a great storyteller (I knew that to be true through your writing, but you are a magnificent oral storyteller as well). I admired your authenticity and transparency in modeling how our own hidden biases and prejudices can be brought into the light of day and illuminated. What moving and hopeful stories these were...the people I saw were engrossed and engaged. You inspired those doctors to know themselves, so that they could know their patients.
A state medical association:
On behalf of the […] Medical Association, thank you for giving such a powerful keynote presentation at our Practice Management Symposium. The way you used stories from your book Incidental Findings to relate the impact of illness on us as individuals and health care professionals was engaging and thought provoking. I think it made us all curious about the personal connection we have with our patients (and colleagues) and how that connection has healing power.
Your presentation met everyone’s expectations, and in fact, 43 percent indicated you exceeded their expectations in regards to the value of the information to them, and 98% indicated they would be able to apply this to their job. "Great speaker, very engaging," "Interesting and uplifting," "Brought us to reality in a humorous way," and "Thanks for reintroducing the power of touch" were just a few of the comments received.
As a side note...from a meeting planner’s prospective, I must comment on what a pleasure it was work with you. You were so responsive to each and every request. Thank you!
A medical association:
Dr. Ofri was such a delight to work with and she did a fantastic job at our Symposium. We had more than 225 people there, about 60 physicians, and she captivated the audience. They were very attentive, they were hanging onto her words, she was just very profound, very sincere. She just did a very nice job. We sold all of her books. From a meeting planner's perspective, you've been great to work with, but also she's been a dream — very responsive, professional, approachable, down to earth. As a person I really enjoyed her. Thank you so much for the suggestion.
A major health insurance company:
Excellent. Dr. Ofri as the last speaker was perfectly planned! Thought the first and last presentations were excellent - great speaker to end with.
Dr. Ofri was truly fascinating and informative. Closing speaker perfect.