Wendy Dean at Harvard Book Store


If I Betray These Words:
Moral Injury in Medicine and
Why It’s So Hard for Clinicians to Put Patients First 



April 4, 2023
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes WENDY DEAN, MD—President and co-founder of Moral Injury of Healthcare—for a discussion of her new book If I Betray These Words: Moral Injury in Medicine and Why It’s So Hard for Clinicians to Put Patients First. She will be joined in conversation by health and science journalist CAREY GOLDBERG, internist Drs. STUART POLLACK, and SIMON TALBOT—Director of Harvard Medical School's Upper Extremity Transplant Program. 

A Return to In-Person Events

Harvard Book Store is excited to be back to in-person programming. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Harvard Book Store events until further notice:

  • Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the store. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth.

About If I Betray These Words

Offering examples of how to make medicine better for the healers and those they serve, If I Betray These Words profiles clinicians across the country who are tough, resourceful, and resilient, but feel trapped between the patient-first values of their Hippocratic oath and the business imperatives of a broken healthcare system.

Doctors face real risks when they stand up for their patients and their oath; they may lose their license, their livelihood, and for some, even their lives.

There’s a growing sense, referred to as moral injury, that doctors have their hands tied – they know what patients need but can’t get it for them because of constraints imposed by healthcare systems run like big businesses.

Workforce distress in healthcare—moral injury—was a crisis long before the COVID-19 pandemic, but COVID highlighted the vulnerabilities in our healthcare systems and made it impossible to ignore the distress, with 1 in 5 American healthcare workers leaving the profession since 2020, and up to 47% of U.S. healthcare workers now planning to leave their positions by 2025.

If I Betray These Words confronts the threat and broken promises of moral injury – what it is; where it comes from; how it manifests; and who’s fighting back against it. We need better healthcare—for patients and for the workforce. It’s time to act.

Praise for If I Betray These Words

“This is a great story of an adventurous and wide-ranging doctor dedicated to bringing the human into medicine. Having felt the whip of money and ‘administrators,’ in both large institutions and small hospitals, she and Simon Talbot moved away from calling doctors’ difficulties 'burnout' — thus blaming doctors — to 'moral injury' —like soldiers floundering under unjust orders. A brilliant, expansive book.” —Samuel Shem, MD, DPhil, Professor in Medicine at NYU Medical School, author of The House of God

"A manifesto for our times! Wendy Dean diagnoses the dangerous state of our healthcare system, illustrating the thumbscrews applied to medical professionals by their corporate overlords. By making it impossible to do the right thing for patients, the profit-hungry system casually gouges the moral fiber of healthcare workers, threatening patient safety. Luckily, Dean lays out a path forward. Required reading for all stakeholders in healthcare." —Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, author of When We Do Harm: A Doctor Confronts Medical Error

“All good physicians embrace their role as ‘Chief Story Teller,’ explaining to patients and their families the meaning of symptoms, diagnostic tests and proposed treatments. Wendy Dean weaves together the stories of 13 healthcare clinicians who have grappled with moral injury resulting from the system in which they are forced to work, and also offers solutions. A brilliantly conceived and executed masterpiece.” —Thom Mayer, MD, Medical Director of the NFL Players Association

Carey Goldberg
Carey Goldberg

Carey Goldberg

CAREY GOLDBERG covers health and science, and is the host of WBUR's CommonHealth section. She has been the Boston bureau chief of The New York Times, a staff Moscow correspondent for The Los Angeles Times, and a health/science reporter for The Boston Globe. She was a Knight Science Journalism fellow at MIT, graduated summa cum laude from Yale, and did graduate work at Harvard. She is co-author of the triple memoir Three Wishes: A True Story Of Good Friends, Crushing Heartbreak and Astonishing Luck On Our Way To Love and Motherhood.

Dr. Simon Talbot
Dr. Simon Talbot

Dr. Simon Talbot

DR. SIMON TALBOT grew up in New Zealand and moved to the US for surgical training. He is a widely published plastic surgeon specializing in hand and microsurgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School where he is the Director of their Upper Extremity Transplant Program. He regularly volunteers to train physicians in lower income countries in East Africa and the South Pacific. Dr. Talbot grew interested in clinician distress a decade ago while experiencing his own and his colleagues challenges caring for patients.

Dr. Stuart Pollack
Dr. Stuart Pollack

Dr. Stuart Pollack

DR. STUART POLLACK has been a general internist and a leader for 31 years, reimagining the future of primary care medicine. He joined Brigham and Women’s Hospital in 2008, after 15 years at Fallon Clinic, and led the South Huntington office to become a continuously learning, truly integrated multidisciplinary practice built on a culture of patient engagement. South Huntington won a prestigious Quality and Practice Innovation Award and was one of just 23 primary care practices profiled by the Annals of Family Medicine as a High-Functioning Primary Care Practice.

Wendy Dean, MD
Wendy Dean, MD

Wendy Dean, MD

WENDY DEAN, MD is the President and co-founder of Moral Injury of Healthcare, a nonprofit organization focused on alleviating workforce distress. A seminal article that she co-authored with Simon Talbot, MD for STATNews in July of 2018 began the conversation about moral injury in healthcare. Dr. Dean has practiced as a psychiatrist and an emergency room physician, and is an expert in hand and face transplants, and the ethics of medical innovations.

Photo Credit: Susan Symonds

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

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