Over 20 years ago when I was a junior faculty member at UCLA, I participated in a panel discussion at a conference symposium moderated by Dr. Doug Drossman on the importance of the patient-doctor relationship in managing patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It was my first introduction to Dr. Drossman’s thoughtful and insightful approach of the optimal ways physicians can communicate with patients. I found myself having a lot of thoughts and comments on this topic. A day or two later, Dr. Drossman’s physician assistant ran into me at the conference and suggested that I come visit them in North Carolina because I seem to be very interested in learning how to develop a therapeutic patient-doctor relationship. I took her up on this offer and I visited Dr. Drossman and saw patients with him. It was there that I really learned how to actively listen to them, ask thoughtful and relevant questions, understand and appreciate the patient’s experience and perspective, recognize the importance of continuity of care and supportive reinforcement, and to be patient. Dr. Drossman taught me the biopsychosocial approach to disorders of gut-brain interaction (DGBI). The way he skillfully talked to patients, explained complex biologic processes to patients so that they understood them, and negotiated a mutually agreeable management plan that empowered the patient was enlightening to me. He has been a mentor to me every since then. We have written papers together on optimizing the patient-physician relationship, conducted communication skills workshops, and work together in the Rome Foundation. I will be eternally grateful for the mentorship and training he has generously provided me so that I can more capably take care of patients. Subsequently I have been able to train students, trainees and other physicians how to communicate more skillfully with patients to improve health outcomes and satisfaction. I always tell people that Dr. Drossman taught me how to take care of patients.
Dr. Drossman and Johannah Ruddy have formed a synergistic partnership educating both patients and health care providers about patient and doctor perspectives in DGBI and how to successfully build and nuture a therapeutic patient-doctor relationship. Johannah bravely recounts her medical history and the negative experiences she endured as a patient, but also how she learned about her IBS, how to manage her symptoms, and most importantly, find her voice and advocate for herself. Dr. Drossman deftly explains the ten ways doctors can enhance the patient-doctor relationship and provide patient-centered care. Together they provide scientific evidence that explains the etiology and symptoms of DGBI and they also share what patients and doctors should know in order to maximize their partnership in patient care. Their book is a rich resource of information for patients, health care providers and the general public. I have no doubt that you will feel enlightened reading this similar to how I felt when I visited Dr. Drossman so many years ago.
Lin Chang, M.D.
Vice-Chief, Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases
Program Director, UCLA GI Fellowship Program
Co-Director, G. Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Los Angeles, CA