Before I entered medical school, there was one book that every aspiring physician had to read. It was Samuel Shem’s House of G-d, describing Shem’s experiences as an intern at Harvard’s Beth Israel Hospital. It became a bestseller and was later made into a movie.
Every physician I know would like to write a book about his or her life’s work. Very few get around to doing it. However, each physician has a unique vision and perspective. They tend to be a fascinating group.
The medical profession began with Hippocrates, who proclaimed the fundamental injunction, “first do no harm,” and in his oath vowed to prescribe only treatments that will “benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgment.”
Then came Maimonides, who says in one of his books on medical conditions, “A physician does not treat a disease, he rather treats a sick person.” Finally, there was the father of modern medicine, Dr. William Osler, who stated, “The practice of medicine is an art, not a trade; a calling not a business; a calling in which your heart will be exercised equally with your head.”
Dr. Stephen Soloway embodies all three of these admonitions in his rheumatology practice in southern New Jersey. He learned from the best. Dr. Ralph Schumacher was his mentor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. I had the honor and privilege of being taught at Penn by Dr. Schumacher as well.
Soloway accomplished what most physicians only dream about. His book Bad Medicine should be read by every aspiring physician and rheumatologist. It qualifies as the modern-day equivalent of The House of G-d. It covers life, morality and politics, as well as rheumatology. His pearls of wisdom are so broad that I put him in the category of a true renaissance man.
Moreover, Soloway is not afraid to say what has to be said. He is not looking to coddle anyone or to curry favor. He tells it like it is. It is hard-hitting and very direct. “Political correctness,” in his view, is a problem, not a solution.
The book is a brilliant and compelling work and an easy read. Here are some excerpts that I particularly liked:
“Our society is way too focused on professional sports. They play a role in entertainment, just like Broadway and Hollywood, but it is unbelievable how 16 (now 17) Sundays go by and 50,000 people are pumping down the Budweiser, potato chips, Doritos, Pepsi and Twinkies so fast that they don’t even know what country they’re in when the game is over. This is all part of the problem. They’d all be much better off going for a hike or a long bike ride.”
“What makes me the best at what I do is precision. My injections have saved thousands of people from unnecessary trigger finger, carpal tunnel, rotator cuff, spine surgeries and knee replacements.”
“Much has changed for those suffering. Thirty years ago, the disability rate for Rheumatoid Arthritis was 35%. Now it is minimal if treated early.”
Here are some “Solowayisms”: “If you want it done correct, do it yourself.” “Eat to live, don’t live to eat.” “If you are not going forward, you’re going backward.”
Dr. Stephen Soloway is a passionate man. Anyone who had one of the finest baseball card collections in the world—including a rookie Mickey Mantle card that just sold for over $12 million and a Honus Wagner card from 1909-1911 that sold for $7.5 million and made it into the Professional Sports Authenticator Hall of Fame—is not your ordinary soul. We are talking about someone very rare.
Obviously, it is a privilege to know Soloway. He is truly one of a kind. I highly recommend that you read his book Bad Medicine and be first in line to get his next book Medical Politics. Both will give you a charge and change your life.
Dr. Joseph Frager is a lifelong activist and physician. He is chairman of Israel advocacy for the Rabbinical Alliance of America, chairman of the executive committee of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim and executive vice president of the Israel Heritage Foundation.