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Surviving the Fall - Selwyn, Peter A. - Yale University Press
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Surviving the Fall

The Personal Journey of an AIDS Doctor

  • Peter A. Selwyn; Foreword by Sherwin B. Nuland, M.D.
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Out of Print.


Recognized by the New England American Medical Writers Association Chapter with a Will Solimene Award of Excellence in Medical Communication

This poignant and eloquent book is a memoir of the first decade of the AIDS epidemic in the Bronx, a physician’s firsthand account of the emergence of an epidemic and the lives that it touched. it is also an exploration of how the physician was himself transformed by his experience with these patients.

Dr. Peter Selwyn, now a well-known researcher and clinician in the area of HIV and drug abuse, came to Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx as a medical intern in June 1981. He remained there for ten years, caring for patients with AIDS. During that same span he got married and became a father. Absorbed in the pain and losses of his patients and their families, Dr. Selwyn finally acknowledged the grief he had carried for decades following the sudden death (and apparent suicide) of his father when the author was an infant. He realized that, like AIDS, suicide stigmatizes both those who die and those who survive. Surrounded by dying young parents, he understood what it meant to have a father and to be one. For him, it was a process of healing in the midst of the epidemic. His story can help us see AIDS (and any life-threatening illness) as an opportunity to go through our own fear, pain, and darkness and to come out on the other side. Recognizing the darkness and passing through it, observes Dr. Selwyn, is a prerequisite for anyone seeking to be an effective caregiver, whether professional or personal. It is a process that can teach us how to accompany patients or loved ones through illness and to witness and relieve their suffering as they approach death.

This is an uplifting story of loss, discovery, and coming to terms with the past, a story with an important message for anyone dealing with the challenges of living, dying, and being human.

Peter A. Selwyn, M.D., is associate director of the AIDS Program and associate professor of medicine, epidemiology, and public health at the Yale University School of Medicine.

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