“Dottoressa” is the Perfect Beach Read

Book Review

Dottoressa: An American Doctor in Rome by Susan Levenstein, MD.

270-page paperback / 5.5″ x 8.5″ / ISBN 9781589881396 / Publication Date: 5/21/2019

My valued colleague at The American Magazine (Rome) is the author of a book many readers will find especially compelling in our post-Pandemic era when we are all reflecting on how well or poorly our health care providers dealt with the crisis.

This work was published in 2019, just before all Hell broke loose. Thanks to Levenstein’s astute observations, she anticipates just why hospitals and clinics might be overwhelmed by a new crushing demand for services due to cultural differences.

“From an American point of view, some of my Italian patients expect too much out of a doctor, others too little,” she writes. “American doctors explain, Italians don’t.”

According to Levenstein, this might be attributed to the poetic vagueries related during typical patient visits, which involved a significant learning curve.

In American charting terms, she says, most of her Italian visitors were promoting their entire Past Medical History before stating the more pressing status of Chief Complaint.

She concludes by quoting an Italian woman who explains that here countrymen “are supplicants, not inquisitors.” As a consequence, patients expect their physicians to pontificate, aiming to “placate rather than pester.”

The chapter, “The Patient Game,” starts with a quote from the Beat classic, Junky, by William S. Burroughs:

“You need a good bedside manner with doctors or will get nowhere.”

Today, Levenstein shares regular insights on current health care in her column, “Bedside Manners.”

Burroughs isn’t the only bohemian legend offering Levenstein solace in times of despair.

In Dottoressa, she also reveals how listening to the lyrics of Tom Waits helped her through a difficult period of questioning her future as a physician. Suddenly, her motivation mysteriously returned and she resumed her vocation with a new passion.

For the most part, this episodic journey is pure entertainment filled with joy and purpose. Eternal City expats and visitors alike will find these musings the perfect “beach read.”