- College of Medicine
Dr. Stephen Bergman brought a medical conversation he began more than 30 years ago about how young physicians were trained to the University of Central Florida School of Medicine on January 31.
The event was sponsored by the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), American Medical Association (AMA) and the Biomedical Ethics in Medical Education (BEME).
Using the pseudonym Samuel Shem, Dr. Bergman wrote the novel “The House of God,” based on his grueling experiences as an intern at Harvard Medical School’s Beth Israel Hospital in 1974. When the book was published in 1978, it was met with scorn by the medical establishment even as medical students devoured the satire about how Dr. Roy Basch and his fellow interns weathered being on call every third night and working 100-plus-hour weeks.
The book “was radical when it first came out,” said Dr. Bergman. “I started writing it after the worst year of my life.”
But as his generation of young doctors grew up and took its place among the medical establishment, he said, “House of God” has helped fuel a broader movement to humanize medicine.
Dr. Bergman advised students to stay connected to each other and patients, speak up when they see something wrong in the medical system, and learn empathy. “You’re the generation that has a chance of making changes,” he said.
Since “The House of God,” there have been reforms in graduate medical education. In 2003, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) required that doctors in training work no more than 80 hours a week and no more than 24 hours in a row and receive more on-site supervision from senior physicians. The ACGME’s regulations are similar to a section of the New York State Department of Health Code known as the Libby Zion law, named after a young woman who was believed by her father to have died under the care of overworked residents.
Dr. Bergman is retired from psychiatry and works as a full-time novelist. In 2008, he published his fourth novel, “The Spirit of The Place,” about a doctor in the Hudson Valley.