The Kitchen Shrink: A Psychiatrist's Reflections on Healing in a Changing World

Dora Calott Wang, M.D.

Riverhead Books,  April 2010

Dora Calott Wang is a Yale-trained psychiatrist who began her career as a doctor with great enthusiasm. But after less than a decade of her practicing medicine, that enthusiasm was shattered by the seismic shifts that shook the entire medical profession.

Once a cherished, even sacred, vocation, medicine has become a business driven by profit. What made medicine turn its back on its central tenets? In The Kitchen Shrink, Wang explores what happened, through the prism of her own research and experience. In these pages we watch as she struggles to maintain her professional standards as health care's priorities shift away from the compassionate care of patients and, instead, toward improving the bottom line, and along the way we meet some of her patients, whose stories reveal an oft-ignored human side of our besieged system. As the medical landscape shifts beneath Wang, she confronts depression and exhaustion, and fights to find a balance between work and home, as it become ever clearer that she cannot untangle the uncertain futures of her patients from her own.

Part memoir and part rallying cry, The Kitchen Shrink is an unflinchingly honest, passionate, and humane inside look at the realities of free-market medicine in today's America.

hardcover | ISBN: 9781594487538 | Publication Date: April 2010

"A beautifully written memoir about the author's frustration with the transformation of the profession of medicine into the business of health care, and the unraveling of the doctor-patient bond . . . A thoroughly compelling message- without an ethical commitment to the value of every life, "the very humanity of our society" is at stake."
--Kirkus (starred review)

"In a memoir that reads like a quest, psychiatrist Wang reports a decades-long mission to discover or, rather, rediscover the profession to which she once aspired and that is currently becoming more and more obscured by the burgeoning so-called health-care industry. Her personal story dovetails with an account of a medical profession floundering under an ever-increasing avalanche of paperwork, driven by and a consequence of the profit motive. This all began, she says, in the 1980s with deregulation, and it represents a 180-degree reversal of previously held notions about the medical profession, from a time when "courts repetitively ruled that it was 'against sound public policy' for companies to seek profit from medical care." Insisting that for-profit medical care is counterintuitive to good medical care, this daughter of an economics professor notes that good medical care lessens the need for itself and does not look for repeat business. That the current health-care crisis has caused anguish and even physical illness in Wang and her like-minded peers registers near palpably."