Stephen J. Bergman, MD, PhD

Stephen J. Bergman, MD, PhD (pen name Samuel Shem).

Stephen J. Bergman, MD, PhD

How to Stay Human in Medicine

Samuel Shem’s classic novel about medical internship, The House of God (1978), was recently named by the British medical journal The Lancet as one of the two most important American medical novels of the 20th century, the other being Sinclair Lewis’s Arrowsmith.

It has sold over two million copies, in thirty languages. John Updike wrote in an introduction to the 25th anniversary edition: “It glows with the celebratory essence of a real novel…A tale of venture into the valley of death and the truth of the fresh…more timely than ever.”

Newsweek listed it in 1999 as “the novel to read about becoming a doctor.” The sequel, Mount Misery (1996), about psychiatric residency at a mental hospital of that name, has been called “another medical classic,” and, by the Boston Globe, “outrageously funny, a sage and important novel by a healer and a Shakespearean.” These novels have been bestsellers in America, Germany, Spain, and the Czech Republic. Dr. Shem is also the author of Fine (1986), a novel about a psychoanalyst called “Funny…Full of dazzling, zany intelligence….energetic and exuberant” (New York Times), and The Missing Girl (in press), a novel set in China.

Two of Dr. Shem’s plays, Room for One Woman and Napoleon’s Dinner, have been published in The Best Short Plays anthologies. With his wife, Janet Surrey, he is the author of Bill W. and Dr. Bob, a play about the relationship between the two men who founded Alcoholics Anonymous; it was recently named one of the “ten best plays” of the season in San Diego and is published by Samuel French (2000).

Dr. Shem has been honored as one of Boston Public Library’s “Literary Lights” entitled as one of “Boston’s Best Authors,” and as a speaker at the Hemingway Centennial Celebration at the JFK Library. He has received the Vanderbilt University Medal of Merit. As Dr. Stephen Bergman, he has given the commencement address at over fifty medical schools, has spoken around the world on “How to Stay Human in Medicine,” and has published a noted essay, “Fiction as Resistance” (Annals of Internal Medicine, 2002).