Eric Cassell

Eric J. Cassell, MD, M.A.C.P.

Emeritus Professor of Public Health
Weill Medical College of Cornell University
Adjunct Professor of Medicine
Faculty of Medicine McGill University
Attending Physician, New York Presbyterian Hospital

Phone: (917) 3654-5639
Email: Eric "at" EricCassell.com

Education and Professional Experience:
I retired from the active practice of internal medicine in 1998 after thirty-seven years. I received my BA from Queens College in 1950, an MA from Columbia University also in 1950 and my M.D. from New York University College of Medicine in 1954. I did my postgraduate training in Internal Medicine on the 3rd Medical Division of Bellevue Hospital in New York City. I was a U.S. Public Health Service Fellow in infectious disease in the Department of Public Health of Cornell University Medical College serving under Dr. Walsh McDermott and Dr. Rene Dubos. I was a captain in the Medical Corp of the U.S. Army from 1956 to 1958 in France (how delightful).

I remained in the Department of Public Health at Cornell where, in 1961, I started doing research and writing extensively on the health effects of air pollution which continued for several years. I have been on the faculty of New York University School of Medicine and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. I am a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and a Master of the American College of Physicians. I was a member from 1997 to 2001 of the President’s National Bioethics Advisory Commission.

Interests and some personal things:
I was born, raised, and educated in New York City. I have loved medicine, sick people, doctors, and almost all else about medicine for a very long time. (I don’t love hospitals as much now as before.)

In 1971, a generous fate (and something I had written) placed me on The Task Force on Dying at the Hastings Center. That literally changed my life, broadened my horizons, pushed me to become literate, and gave substance to a genetic predisposition to philosophy. I began to wonder whether a doctor could actually treat patients in a successfully useful and special way because they were dying. So I started doing that in the fall of 1971. Now we know you not only can, but you should.

Since that time I have written a lot about moral problems in medicine, the care of the dying and the nature of suffering. I am the author of The Healer's Art, The Place of the Humanities in Medicine, Changing Values in Medicine, two volumes on doctor patient communication entitled Talking with Patients, Doctoring: The Nature of Primary Care Medicine, and The Nature of Suffering, now in its second edition (2004 – please read the new chapters about mind/body and meaning). The Nature of Healing was published by Oxford University Press early in 2013. A new book, The Nature of Clinical Medicine, which has taken 25 years to be born, was published by Oxford in the Fall of 2014.

Since retiring, and with the blessing of enough sleep and not so much worry, I continue actively to teach, lecture widely, and write (and write). My major interest is the theory of clinical medicine and the development of new ideas to guide medicine’s practice and teaching. One of my tests for every idea continues to be whether it works in end-of-life care.
I am married to Patricia Owens, who knows more about disability policy than anyone in the world, and who taught me all I know about disability. Between us we have eight grown children, but not enough grandchildren. We live both in rural Pennsylvania and in Brooklyn, under the Brooklyn Bridge.