Incidental Findings

Medicine, Culture, and Life

Danielle Ofri

Danielle Ofri
New York, New York,
Danielle Ofri, M.D., Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Medicine at New York University School of Medicine and an internist at Bellevue Hospital, the oldest public hospital in the country. She is co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Bellevue Literary Review. Her newest book, Medicine in Translation: Journeys with my Patients--is about the experience of immigrants and Americans in the U.S. health care system. She is the author of two collections of essays about life in medicine: Incidental Findings: Lessons from my Patients in the Art of Medicine and Singular Intimacies: Becoming a Doctor at Bellevue. Danielle Ofri's writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the New England Journal of Medicine, the Lancet, and on National Public Radio. Danielle Ofri is currently working on a set of essays about medicine, while several unfinished novels in various states of disrepair gather prime New-York-City dust under her bed. Ofri lives with her husband, three children, cello, and black-lab mutt in a singularly intimate Manhattan-sized apartment. Danielle's homepage is


OCTOBER 27, 2010 10:07PM

Meet Dr. Chan....

Chinese man"Dr. Chan and Mrs. Geng (not their real names) eased out of their chairs in the waiting room using their matching wooden canes, the kind distributed by the hospital, free of charge. At 89, Dr. Chan was stooped and frail, his body paper-thin. He seemed as though he might topple… Read full post »

OCTOBER 22, 2010 11:15AM

The Debilitated Muse

Poet"What happens when the poet faces illness? How is the poetry affected by alterations of the body and mind?"

Read Danielle's new article in the Journal of Medical Humanities. 

Here's the beginning:
"When I think about the definition of poetry, I have an image of the vast chaotic world bei… Read full post »

OCTOBER 10, 2010 11:45AM

More on Mammograms....

pink_ribbonMammograms: One doctor, her patients, herself

by Danielle Ofri October 8, 2010

Monday:  Our journal club at the hospital reviewed the recent Norwegian trial showing limited benefits of mammograms.

Tuesday: I had my appointment for my own mammogram.

Wednesday: Veneta Masson’… Read full post »

OCTOBER 8, 2010 2:13PM

Pet Care vs Human Care


Quality Health Care? Ask Your Veterinarian


By DANIELLE OFRI, M.D. New York Times Well blog September 23, 2010

“…How is that the simplest routine medical matters have been made so complicated by our insurance companies? Why does every encounter req… Read full post »

OCTOBER 7, 2010 7:43AM

Social Mission of Med Schools


by Danielle Ofri
Sept 16, 2010.

What exactly is the mission of a medical school? Is it to train the best and smartest doctors? Is to tend to our nation’s health? Is it to further medical knowledge?

Go to the website of just… Read full post »

12th and DelawareCan Americans ever speak reasonably to each other about abortion? It seems impossible, given how polarized our country is. The emotions run far too deep on both sides. No one seems to be able to listen to anything anyone else says, even something reasonable. The assumption is that anyone onRead full post »

AUGUST 26, 2010 11:44PM

Can We Measure a “Good Doctor?”

DataQuality measures are all the rage now. Insurance companies and HMOs love them because they see them as ways to save money. Hospitals and medical organizations are flocking to them because they are an appealing way to measure and possibly improve medical care. The zeitgeist of “pay… Read full post »

AUGUST 6, 2010 10:51AM

Shame, Guilt and Medical Error

"Precisely two weeks after completing my medical internship, I proceeded to nearly kill a patient...."--Danielle Ofri, MD

hands-on-faceIt's been more than a decade since the seminal report "To Err is Human" by the Institute of Medicine.  The report made waves when it estimated that 1.5 million people… Read full post »

JULY 20, 2010 5:25PM

Facing Fatness

Stereotypes are being chased away in medicine—at least on paper. It’s no longer permissible to discriminate against women (and since women are likely taking over medicine, that’s a good thing!) The topic of race is verboten, as is religion. Cultural competency is everywhere in medic… Read full post »

JULY 6, 2010 6:08AM

An Immigrant’s Heart

The issue of immigration is more polarizing than ever. When it comes to health care, the emotions flare even higher. I’ve written a lot about my immigrant patients and medical issues. Online comments to these articles have tended to be extremely vitriolic, especially when I’ve wri… Read full post »

JUNE 25, 2010 3:20PM

The Residency Regulators are Back!

How many hours can a doctor work?

The residency regulators are back. About ten years ago, the national organization that accredits residency programs (ACGME) set out its first guidelines about how many hours a doctor-in-training can work. Interns and residents finally achieved the vaunted 80-h… Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
JUNE 1, 2010 3:56PM

Why Don't Patients Take Their Meds?

pill bottleA good chunk of every medical visit is spent writing prescriptions. Before we had an electronic medical record, this was often an arduous task, leading to serious writer’s cramp. Now the computer makes it easier on the doctor, but it doesn’t seem to have much effect on the patient… Read full post »


The fine print of the 2010 Health Care Reform bill is still being analyzed. Shortcomings and limitations are being uncovered. But a new report from the Commonwealth Fund showed that there will be immense and immediate gains for young adults.

Most young adults “fall off” of t… Read full post »

MAY 18, 2010 12:07PM



We like to think of human beings as social animals, and by and large we are. Most of us exist in complex networks of siblings, parents, children, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and acquaintances. And usually we take this for granted.

Every so often, in my work at the hospital, I… Read full post »

MAY 11, 2010 10:22AM

Shingles and Dollars


Good health is only affordable—for the majority of the population—if it is covered by insurance. An excellent case in point is the vaccine for shingles (herpes zoster).

Shingles is the revisiting of the chicken pox virus. The virus lives in the body since the first episode… Read full post »

MAY 6, 2010 12:52PM

Hospital Rankings: Bulk and Bunk

US News badge


What’s inside the sausage of hospital rankings?

Every year the U.S. New & World Report publishes its rankings of the nation’s top 50 hospitals. Hospital administrators await this top 50 report with a tension and fervor that rivals the NFL first-draft pick.

As soon… Read full post »

APRIL 30, 2010 6:35PM

St. Vincent’s Hospital (1849-2010)

  Doctot-pt HandShake

Locking the entrance to the emergency room: there could not have been a more potent image to the final day of St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City.

After 160 years, St. Vincent’s closed because of financial problems. It was the only hospital serving Greenwich Village a… Read full post »

APRIL 24, 2010 12:13PM

Arizona—The Newest Soviet Republic


In a move that would fit right in with Stalinist governing style, Governor Jan Brewer signed bill SB-1070 into law, making it a state crime to walk the streets of Arizona without papers proving one’s immigration status.

A person could be detained by police and charged with a misdemeanor… Read full post »

APRIL 21, 2010 10:43PM

A Singularly Intimate Moment

holding handsWhen I published my first book—“Singular Intimacies: Becoming a Doctor at Bellevue”—I got a lot of ribbing from my friends about the title.

“Singular Intimacies?” they said. “What’s the book about—French lingerie?”

But I wanted a… Read full post »

APRIL 14, 2010 11:15AM

Calories and Health Care Reform?

Counting calories as part of health care reform—who knew? But apparently it’s there on page 455 of the health-care reform act, according to Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition at NYU, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine. There will now be a national effort at… Read full post »

The Bellevue Literary Press is honored with the Pulitzer Prize. Paul Harding’s debut novel–Tinkers–won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in fiction.


The Bellevue Literary Press was founded in 2005 as a sister organization to the Bellevue Literary Review. The BLPress publishesRead full post »

APRIL 6, 2010 11:16PM

The End of Private Practice?

A recent article in the New York Times noted a steady migration of doctors from private practice to hospital-owned health systems. The main driving force appears to be economic, that it is too difficult to run a business, especially when much of that entails fighting multiple insurance companies for… Read full post »

MARCH 9, 2010 2:14PM

Dance and Medicine



The mid-point of medical residency is probably the bleakest point in medical training. The daily grind of death and disease wears young doctors down, and the end of residency seems impossibly far off. In the second year of my residency at Bellevue Hospital, I began taking dance class aRead full post »

FEBRUARY 20, 2010 11:43AM




Taking care of ill patients exerts an enormous physical and emotional toll. Caregivers of all types—doctors, nurses, therapists, family members—are susceptible to these strains. But reactions to these stresses are different. Some caregivers possess large emotional reserve an… Read full post »

FEBRUARY 12, 2010 1:32PM

Poetry in Medicine


Script poemWhen I make rounds with my students and interns, I always try to sneak in a poem at the end. I think poetry is important because it helps convey the parts of the medical experience that don’t make it into textbooks. It’s important because it teaches creative thinking—… Read full post »