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

Adjunct Professor of Medical Humanities
Baylor University

Phone: (917) 365-5639
Email: Eric "at"

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 1959-1961. 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 Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) of the National Academy of Sciences and a Master of the American College of Physicians. From 1997 to 2001 I was a member 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. I became a founding Fellow of 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. I started doing that in the fall of 1971. Now we know that 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 (1976), Changing Values in Medicine (1979), two volumes on doctor patient communication entitled Talking with Patients: Volume 1 The theory of Doctor-Patient Communication, Volume 2 Clinical Technique (1984), The Place of the Humanities in Medicine (1984), Doctoring: The Nature of Primary Care Medicine (1997), and The Nature of Suffering, now in its second edition (1991, 2004). (Please read the new chapters 13-15 about mind/body and meaning). The Nature of Healing (2013), The Nature of Clinical Medicine (2014) which took more than 20 years to be born. Professionalism and the Rebirth of Medical Education, by J Donald Boudreau, Eric J Cassell, and Abraham Fuks came out in April 2018. I am presently writing a book on The Humanities in Medicine with Dr. Barron of Baylor University.

Since retiring, and with the blessing of enough sleep and not so much worry, I continue
actively to teach, lecture, and write (and write). My major interest is the theory and
practice 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.

These days I am working on the problem of the Humanities in Medicine with the very talented Dr Lauren Barron at Baylor University where they have a named Major in Humanities in Medicine for premedical students. 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, where I continue to live, cook, travel, and lecture.