Dr. Victoria Sweet: “God’s Hotel” | Talks at Google

Authors@Google presents Dr. Victoria Sweet, “God’s Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine”

Dr. Victoria Sweet will tell stories of her remarkable patients at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, with their surprising answers to our healthcare crisis, based on her highly-praised new book, God’s Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine. Recently published on April 26, 2012, God’s Hotel made the SF Chronicle’s Best Sellers list in its first week out, and has garnered strong praise from Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Publisher’s Weekly, and fellow physician-writers such as Oliver Sacks. Victoria is a fantastic story-teller and has unique insights on medical care, advocating an approach she calls “Slow Medicine”.

About the book: San Francisco’s Laguna Honda Hospital is the last almshouse in the country, a descendant of the Hôtel-Dieu (God’s Hotel) that cared for the sick in the Middle Ages. Ballet dancers and rock musicians, professors and thieves — “anyone who had fallen, or, often, leapt, onto hard times” and needed extended medical care — ended up there. Dr. Sweet ended up there herself, as a physician. And though she came for only a two-month stay, she remained for twenty years.

At Laguna Honda, lower-tech but human-paced, Dr. Sweet had the chance to practice a kind of “slow medicine” that has almost vanished. Gradually, the place and its patients transformed the way she understood the body. Alongside the modern view of the body as a machine to be fixed, her patients evoked an older notion, of the body as a garden to be tended. God’s Hotel tells their stories, and the story of the hospital, which — as efficiency experts, politicians, and architects descended, determined to turn it into a modern “health care facility” — revealed its truths about the cost and value of caring for body and soul.

“A watershed book that ambushes and transforms you with its visionary middle way between the irreplaceable skills of doctors, holistic medicine, and twenty-first century technology. Vital, exquisitely written, and spectacularly multi-dimensional.”
— Booklist

“Victoria Sweet is a master storyteller and a consummate physician. Her beautifully written stories from the frontline of health care document the struggle of all modern-day healers to hold fast to the immortal soul of Medicine despite the pressures of economics, the self-interest of politics, and the reductionism of science.”
— Rachel Naomi Remen, MD

About the author: Dr. Sweet is an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. She is also a prize-winning historian with a Ph.D. in history and social medicine.

She has practiced medicine for more than twenty years at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, which is where she began writing. Two of her essays were published in Health Affairs: The Policy Journal of the Health Sphere—”Thy Will be Done” and “Code Pearl.” Other published work include her book on Hildegard of Bingen: Rooted in the Earth, Rooted in the Sky: Hildegard of Bingen and Premodern Medicine(Routledge, 2006) and “Hildegard of Bingen and the Greening of Medieval Medicine” in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine (1999).Her writing has received numerous honors, including the Shryock Medal, the Estes Award, and the Stannard Memorial Award.



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