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Technical advisor and inspiration of the TV show House Lisa Sanders talks about medical stories

For Lisa Sanders, stories are the most important part of medicine.

Sanders, an internist and a lecturer at Yale School of Medicine, closed Penn’s first Health Care Conference Saturday evening with a presentation titled “Every Patient Tells a Story,” describing her experiences as a doctor and a technical consultant for the TV show House M.D.

“I’m a huge promoter of medicine,” Sanders said. “I think it is the best, most fun job you can have. Med school is hard, residency is hard, but after that everything is just fun.”

Sanders was approached by the show’s producers about two years after she began writing her New York Times Magazine column, “Diagnosis,” in 2002 — and has been a medical consultant for the show ever since. Many of the show’s plotlines have come from Sanders’ own experiences in medicine.

Though there are “minor discrepancies from reality,” Sanders said House M.D. gets it right where it matters.

Sanders was first exposed to diagnostic medicine during medical school.

“I had always thought that diagnosis was like math,” she said. “Six times four, always 24. Fever and a rash, always the same thing.”

What she found, though, was that diagnostics was nothing like what she had seen on TV.

“I love the little detective story that’s at the heart of every doctor-patient encounter,” Sanders said.

It was those little detective stories that became the subject of Sanders’ column and eventually into House M.D.

Sanders closed her presentation with some advice to students considering going into medicine.

“Listening to your patients is going to get you to the answer faster than anything else,” she said. “For me, the patient’s story is the heart of the diagnostic process.”

Sanders’ new book, Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis, was originally published in August of 2009 and reprinted last month in paperback. .

Mainly geared toward pre-medical students, the Health Care Conference hosted a variety of events throughout Saturday aimed at demonstrating the “breadth of health care,” according to Health Care Conference Chairman and Engineering junior Zameer Merchant.

The conference was sponsored by eMED, Alpha Iota Gamma, the Biomedical Engineering Society, the Wharton Undergraduate Healthcare Club, the Medical Emergency Response Team, Penn Career Services, Tangible Change and the Penn Pre-medical Association.

The event’s sponsors hope the conference will continue and grow in the future, Merchant said.

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