God’s Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine ~ Victoria Sweet

San Francisco’s Laguna Honda Hospital is the last almshouse in the country, a descendant of the Hôtel-Dieu (God’s hotel) that cared for the sick in the Middle Ages. Ballet dancers and rock musicians, professors and thieves—“anyone who had fallen, or, often, leapt, onto hard times” and needed extended medical care—ended up here. So did Victoria Sweet, who came for two months and stayed for twenty years.
Laguna Honda, relatively low-tech but human-paced, gave Sweet the opportunity to practice a kind of attentive medicine that has almost vanished. Gradually, the place transformed the way she understood her work. Alongside the modern view of the body as a machine to be fixed, her extraordinary patients evoked an older idea, of the body as a garden to be tended. God’s Hotel tells their story and the story of the hospital itself, which, as efficiency experts, politicians, and architects descended, determined to turn it into a modern “health care facility,” revealed its own surprising truths about the essence, cost, and value of caring for the body and the soul.

Victoria Sweet has been a physician at San Francisco’s Laguna Honda Hospital for more than twenty years. Anassociate clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, she is also a prize-winning historian with a Ph.D. in history and social medicine.

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Authors@Google: Dr. Victoria Sweet, “God’s Hotel”

Authors@Google presents Dr. Victoria Sweet, “God’s Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine”

Dr. Victoria Sweet will tell stories of her remarkable patients at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, with their surprising answers to our healthcare crisis, based on her highly-praised new book, God’s Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine. Recently published on April 26, 2012, God’s Hotel made the SF Chronicle’s Best Sellers list in its first week out, and has garnered strong praise from Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Publisher’s Weekly, and fellow physician-writers such as Oliver Sacks. Victoria is a fantastic story-teller and has unique insights on medical care, advocating an approach she calls “Slow Medicine”.

About the book: San Francisco’s Laguna Honda Hospital is the last almshouse in the country, a descendant of the Hôtel-Dieu (God’s Hotel) that cared for the sick in the Middle Ages. Ballet dancers and rock musicians, professors and thieves — “anyone who had fallen, or, often, leapt, onto hard times” and needed extended medical care — ended up there. Dr. Sweet ended up there herself, as a physician. And though she came for only a two-month stay, she remained for twenty years.

At Laguna Honda, lower-tech but human-paced, Dr. Sweet had the chance to practice a kind of “slow medicine” that has almost vanished. Gradually, the place and its patients transformed the way she understood the body. Alongside the modern view of the body as a machine to be fixed, her patients evoked an older notion, of the body as a garden to be tended. God’s Hotel tells their stories, and the story of the hospital, which — as efficiency experts, politicians, and architects descended, determined to turn it into a modern “health care facility” — revealed its truths about the cost and value of caring for body and soul.

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