Leana Wen, M.D.

ER Doctor; TED Speaker
Author, When Doctors Don't Listen

Physician, public health leader, and fresh voice
on improving healthcare.

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Dr. Leana Wen is a Rhodes Scholar, TED speaker, and author of the critically acclaimed book, When Doctors Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests. When Dr. Wen was a medical student, her mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. As she helped her mother navigate the medical system, she saw how disconnected doctors and patients had become and how disempowering our health system could be. Noting how physicians are steered onto predefined, "cookbook" pathways away from the patient's experience, Wen decided to devote her career to transforming the healthcare system by advocating for the individualized care patients deserve. She wrote a book and has given TED talks on patient advocacy and healthcare reform.

Dr. Wen received her medical training from Washington University and Brigham & Women’s Hospital/Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was a Clinical Fellow at Harvard Medical School. A Rhodes Scholar, she also studied public health and health policy at the University of Oxford. She has served as a consultant with the World Health Organization and the Brookings Institution; an advisor to the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and the Lown Institute; and as national president of the American Medical Student Association. In 2005, she was selected by the Secretary of Health and Human Services to represent physicians-in-training on the Council on Graduate Medical Education, an advisory commission to Congress.

Dr. Wen is currently the Baltimore City Health Commissioner, overseeing the nation’s oldest public health agency. She previously served as attending physician and Director of Patient-Centered Care in the Department of Emergency Medicine at George Washington University, and is currently on faculty at George Washington University and Johns Hopkins University.

She is a broad thinker who, among other things, speaks to leadership in medicine, patient-centered care, transparency, transforming healthcare delivery, improving quality, improving patient-physician communication and relationships, health policy, medical education, fostering patient empowerment, promoting health literacy, population health, community engagement, and public health.

Wen has been published nearly 100 articles in scientific publications including The Lancet, The Journal of the American Medical Association, Health Affairs, and British Medical Journal. She writes regular columns for National Public Radio, Baltimore Sun, Huffington Post, Women’s Health Magazine, and Psychology Today. Along with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof, she reported from East Africa and wrote for The New York Times.

Dr. Leana Wen has been featured in Time, Newsweek, The Atlantic, ABC News, NPR, CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the award-winning HBO documentary Reporter. A professional speaker for over ten years, she lectures around the U.S. and internationally on patient-centered care, public health policy, and healthcare reform. Her TED Talk on fear and transparency in medicine has been viewed 1.5 million times.


When Doctors Don't Listen

How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests

Leana Wen and Joshua Kosowsky

In this examination of the doctor-patient relationship, Drs. Wen and Kosowsky argue that diagnosis, once the cornerstone of medicine, is fast becoming a lost art, with grave consequences. Using real-life stories of cookbook-diagnoses-gone-bad, the doctors illustrate how active patient participation can prevent these mistakes. Wen and Kosowsky offer tangible follow-up questions patients can easily incorporate into every doctor's visit to avoid counterproductive and even potentially harmful tests. In the pursuit for the best medical care available, readers can't afford to miss out on these inside-tips and more:

  • How to deal with a doctor who seems too busy to listen to you

  • 8-Pillars to a Better DiagnosisHow to tell the whole story of your illness

  • Learning test risks and evaluating whether they're worth it

  • How to get a working diagnosis at the end of every doctor's visit

By empowering patients to engage with their doctors as partners in their diagnosis, When Doctors Don't Listen is an essential guide that enables patients to speak up and take back control of their health care.

St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (June 24, 2014)
Thomas Dunne Books; 1 edition (January 15, 2013)

When Doctors Don't Listen by Drs.Wen and Kosowsky have insightfully crafted a revelation about the workings of modern medicine. It addresses with a finely nuanced balance the basis for our dysfunctional "cookbook style" of medicine. The analysis is not a critical pontification by outsiders, but a pained view by deeply informed insiders. The book pleads powerfully for the disenfranchised patient. It must be read both because most of us sooner or later are bound to seek health care and because the authors provide an important viewpoint for the intensifying nationwide health care debate.
— Bernard Lown, MD, Professor emeritus Harvard School of Public Health, Senior Physician emeritus Brigham and Women's Hospital, Nobel Peace Laureate 1985

"A comprehensive guide to improving doctor-patient relations through empowering patients to take an active role in their care. . .As health care becomes more complex and political, this book provides clear direction toward better care."
Kirkus Reviews

“The book’s insights and cautionary tales should appeal to medical and lay readers alike. Superb analysis.”
The New York Times

“An important topic and an important book — I encourage my patients to read it.”
— Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies


Dr. Wen 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.

Meaningful Patient Empowerment in the Era of Healthcare Reform

Healthcare reform and patient-centered care are all the buzz, but what does patient empowerment look like? Dr. Wen tailors this talk to patient groups, hospitals, insurance groups, and more.

The Low-Tech Revolution in Health Care Reform

Based her popular TED talk, Dr Wen discusses how doctors and patients can bring back low-tech advances that will improve care and reduce cost.

How Can the Story Save Your Life?

Dr. Wen talks about the art of the patient narrative, and how the story is critical to informing diagnosis one’s doctors and at the same time transforming policy.

When Doctors Don't Listen

Dr. Wen talks about why today’s doctors aren’t listening and what individuals can do to become empowered patients.

Turning Fear Inside Out

In this talk Dr Wen draws upon her experiences of overcoming a disabling speech impediment and her research into sickness and crisis. She uncovers surprising insights about facing fear and presents three tips for turning fear inside out.

What Does Health Care Dystopia look like?

Based on her research and a recent TED talk, Dr. Wen presents a chilling perspective of a dystopic world of healthcare, and what can be done to prevent it.

A Call to Action for Young People to Join the "World's Fight”

Dr. Wen urges students to find and pursue their passion. She demonstrates how other young people have made a difference, and she presents and action plan for each person to take action today.

Leadership Lessons from the ER.

Tailored to specific groups, Dr. Wen speaks about leadership lessons for youth, community groups, advocacy organizations, and corporate groups, inspired by real-life patient stories from the ER.

Public Health Leadership

Community Engagement


The one medication that will save 25,000 lives each year | TEDxMidAtlantic

What your doctor won't disclose | TEDMED

Turning fear inside out | TEDxFoggyBottom

Liberty, democracy equality, and justice in healthcare | TEDxUniversityofNevada

The low-tech healthcare revolution | TEDxCortland


A patient resource group:
Dr. Wen is both an incredibly accomplished physician and a truly engaging public speaker. When she presents, her words are not only insightful and personal, but highly actionable as well. She challenges conventional wisdom and gives her audience simple recommendations to improve their doctor-patient relationships, and ultimately their health outcomes.

A healthcare executive:
Put simply, Dr. Wen is the kind of speaker who makes you think about the world differently after you've listened to her. She is dynamic and interesting, with a particular knack for explaining very complicated ideas in a way that makes you feel like you're almost as much of an expert on them as she is. In a world where conversation around healthcare is increasingly reduced to dollars and cents, she is able to open your eyes to what it means to treat a patient, a human being with their own unique individual background, condition and story. The world needs more doctors like Dr. Wen, and more people need to hear, and heed, her compelling message.

A healthcare trade association:
Dr. Wen's presentation was compelling and inspiring. She has a wonderful speaking style, and her message about the critical partnership between the physician and patient is timely and so very important in today's healthcare environment. Her message will certainly contribute greatly to creating a more patient centered healthcare system.

A healthcare trade association:
Dr. Wen is an extraordinary speaker. From the moment she uttered her first word, she captured the audience. She is both articulate with her words and knowledgeable about the topics she is discussing. In addition, she is passionate about her work and compassionate with the audience she is addressing. Last month, we had the pleasure of having Dr. Wen speak at our organization’s annual national patient conference. Her knowledge and tone earned her some of the highest audience ratings of any of our conference speakers. Without a doubt, I would highly recommend Dr. Wen as a speaker and look forward to the opportunity to work with her again in the future.

A medical school:
Dr. Wen’s presentation on a Case-Based Approach to Health Policy was one of the most useful lunch talks I’ve been to, in terms of providing high-impact, actionable things that we can do to substantively improve the care of patients.

A medical school:
Dr. Wen provided a refreshingly unique talk on patient-centered care that left everyone in the audience inspired to become better physicians. By challenging the audience to actively listen and not just follow diagnostic algorithms, Dr. Wen provided insight that students … will not soon forget.

A community forum:
Dr. Wen was a pleasure … She conveyed her message about individual responsibility in the doctor-patient relationship in a positive, nonjudgmental manner, offering suggestions to facilitate clear communications. The audience found her to be personable and responsive to their concerns. I would definitely recommend her as a speaker to any group — especially those who may feel a bit intimidated by medical professionals.

A global development community:
Leana is one of the best public speakers I’ve seen. She really knows how to use narrative to convey information. Her presentations [for us have been] finely crafted, using brief, compelling stories (and some surprising twists) to make serious points - without ever losing the audience's attention. And unlike many speakers, she seems to be truly enjoying herself on stage.

A not-for profit organization:
We are thrilled to have Dr. Leana Wen speak annually at [our event]. She is a phenomenal, compelling speaker who captivates the audience with essential insight and expertise. I have heard many presenters through the years, and Leana is among the very best. Many … consistently cite Leana’s presentations as the most valuable. She is, quite simply, an incredible communicator.

A not-for profit organization:
I have seen Dr. Wen speak at two conferences, and each time, she was inspiring, charismatic, and passionate about the power of an individual's narrative. It resonated with me and made me realize the importance of going back to the basics. That is, how a patient's personal story can transform his medical care and his interpersonal relationship with his physician.


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— NPR All Things Considered
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