Victoria Sweet

Victoria Sweet

Fellow: Awarded 2014
Field of Study: General Nonfiction

Competition: US & Canada

University of California, San Francisco

Dr. Sweet is an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and a prize-winning historian with a Ph.D. in medical history.  She practiced medicine for twenty years at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, where she began writing.

In God’s Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine (Riverhead, 2012), Dr. Sweet laid out her evidence—in stories of her patients and her hospital—for some new ideas about medicine.  In trying to get control of healthcare costs by emphasizing “efficiency,” she explained, we headed down the wrong path. Medicine works best—that is, arrives at the right diagnosis and the right treatment for the least amount of money—when the doctor has enough time to do a good job, and can pay attention not only to the patient but to what’s around the patient. Dr. Sweet calls this approach “Slow Medicine” and believes that, put into wider practice, it would be not only more satisfying for patient and doctor, but also less expensive for the healthcare system as a whole. She thinks of this as the “Efficiency of Inefficiency.”

The New York Times has called her ideas “hard-core subversion”; Vanity Fair judged God’s Hotel  to be a “radical and compassionate alternative to modern healthcare”; and Health Affairs described Dr. Sweet as a “visionary.” God’s Hotel won the Gold Medal for Nonfiction of the 82nd Annual California Book Award and was short-listed for the prestigious PEN/Galbraith award as well as for the PEN/USA award in research nonfiction.

Dr. Sweet has also won the Estes Award, Stannard Memorial Award, Shryock Medal, Anna Davidson Rosenberg Award in Poetry,  Carl Harpruder Award in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, and Fairclough Prize in Classical Greek. She has been received grants from the Burroughs-Wellcome Foundation and the American Association for the History of Medicine, as well as a Francis Fellowship and the President’s Research Fellowship from the University of California, San Francisco.

She is now working on her next book, Slow Medicine, Fast Medicine: Healing, Curing and Caring in an Age of Technology.

Victoria Sweet’s TEDx talk

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