Amherst Magazine: Summer 2012

Gentle Doctor

By Emily Gold Boutilier

151190340

[Art] For decades, family physician Alan Blum ’69 has not only taken notes about his patients but also sketched drawings of them. His recent book Gentle Men (2011) and its earlier companion, Ladies in Waiting (2009), are slim volumes that combine some of these ballpoint-pen sketches with his notes and with shorts vignettes in the patients’ own words.

Many of the vignettes are poignant. “When she was eight years old, she asked to have a drink with me, and I stopped drinking,” reads one.

“My wife’s been dead tomorrow one year, and I imagine that’s what it is,” says another.

Other vignettes will amuse anyone who’s ever been (or treated) a patient. “I came in early today,” reads one, “because I had this weird psychic feeling you were running on time.”

Blum is a professor of family medicine at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where he also directs the Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society.