Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Remembering Dr. Oliver Sacks and His Lessons to Our Service

Remembering Dr. Oliver Sacks and His Lessons to Our Service

Do you remember the book, "Awakenings?" It was adapted into a movie of the same title in 1990, with Robin Williams playing a doctor. The doctor that Williams played was based on Oliver Sacks, M.D., a neurologist, best-selling author and professor at the New York University School of Medicine. Dr. Sacks has been called "the poet laureate of medicine." Anyway, Dr. Sacks died of cancer Sunday at the age of 82. The world will miss him.

Dr. Sacks wrote books on topics related to neurology. One that I liked was called "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat." It is about one of his patients with visual agnosia. As an author, Dr. Sacks made the description of the patient experience, something the reader could understand. His concern for his patients came through on each page of his writings.

"I would like it to be thought that I had listened carefully to what patients and others have told me, that I've tried to imagine what it was like for them, and that I tried to convey this, " he said.

His writings resonated with me. Maybe it was because my late mother died from Alzheimer’s disease. In any case, I liked what Dr. Sacks had to say. He told stories about his patients lost in the sometimes strange world of neurological disorders.

Furthermore, he seemed to be very in touch with his patients’ feelings and their needs.  As he said in the above quote, he learned those things by listening. It is why listening is so important. This business of listening and caring is really what we are talking about with the term “patient experience.”  I know we emphasis Press-Ganey numbers, as reported elsewhere in this newsletter; but, those are just a crude (while necessary) barometer of how we are doing with our patients.  We want to know our patients as real people with real needs whom it is our privilege to serve. We have all been in situations where we needed help with our health. And on those occasions, it is good to find a friendly and qualified person who will take the time to listen to us and to help us.

Have a great week!