by Jacquelyn Gilchrist
"Many medical students wish to become doctors out of a keen desire to save lives—or at least attempt to do so. When they begin their hospital rotations; however, any lingering naivete quickly vanishes the first time they must deliver bad news to family members. Such was the case for Dr. MacGregor, who witnessed first-hand the "soul-stretching" experiences of the deepest love and the darkest agony.
What famed psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' ground-breaking book, Death and Dying did to illuminate the stages of grief, MacGregor's book has done to celebrate the oft-overlooked precious gift that is life. As much as death is feared and vilified, it also serves to remind us that life is simply too short to waste time fretting over petty concerns. MacGregor's exquisite writing is a celebration of every minute of miraculous life as much as it is an expose on how patients and their families cope with the inevitable end."
by Cynthia Haq, MD, Department of Family Medicine
University of Wisconsin-Madison
"In Awe of Being Human, A Doctor’s Stories from the Edge of Life and Death, is a deeply moving account from a physician who has cared for patients from the beginning to the end of life. Betsy MacGregor, MD, a pediatrician who worked in New York City for nearly 30 years, recounts stories from her practice around themes that comprise the heart of healing. Dr MacGregor provided care for neonates, children, adolescents, and families. Later in her career, she conducted research with people at the end of life to study “the arc of the human journey from the beginning to the very end.” Therefore, her work resonated with my experience as a family physician over a similar period of time.
Dr MacGregor describes her patients, mostly from the inner city of New York, as “people that I loved and learned from.” Her love and deep respect for her patients shines through riveting stories that span her career from a tentative medical student, an exhausted resident, a seasoned attending physician, as a patient herself, and as a wise sage. These stories, “the fierce and tender ones that carved out a niche in the marrow of my bones,” provide intimate views into the worlds of hospitals and doctoring as well as into her own character and development as a physician."
Touching on Something Bigger -- in New Book, Betsy MacGregor Says Medicine Shouldn't Be Divorced From Empathy
by Helen Riess, M.D. Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School; Chairman, Chief Scientific Officer Empathetics, LLC; Director, Empathy and Relational Science Program, Massachusetts General Hospital
"In the world of medicine, where the physical exam is often given short shrift in favor of ordering a menu of tests, we miss some of the most important information that is right before us. We miss the connection, and the empathy, of which the key components are making meaningful eye contact, noticing the facial expressions, emotions, and postures of others, attuning to the tone of voice, hearing the whole person and noticing our own responses to others.
MacGregor's stories testify to the life-affirming power of empathy: listening, touching, and seeing another person. Had MacGregor not picked up three-year-old Roman -- who was diagnosed but not improving -- and met his gaze, she would have never seen the pleading look in his eyes that shook her to the core. She immediately ordered a CAT scan and a few hours later learned that Roman had an abscess that encroached on his trachea, and he was already undergoing surgery."