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The Boston Globe

Health & wellness

Q&A | ‘Samuel Shem’

35 years later, author revisits ‘The House of God’

In August 1978, “Samuel Shem” published “The House of God,” a bawdy, satirical novel based on his experiences as an intern at Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital. “Shem” is the pen name of now-retired Harvard psychiatrist Stephen Bergman. Though he’s written several other novels, plays, and works of nonfiction, “The House of God,” his first book, remains his best known. Often compared to Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22,” “The House of God” exposed the dark side of medical training, in which savagely overworked young doctors found themselves seeing their patients as enemies.

Today, with controversy about whether medical trainees’ hours should be regulated more heated than ever, “The House of God” remains relevant. On the novel’s 35th anniversary, Dr. Bergman spoke at his home in Newton about how and why he wrote it — and what he thinks of medical training today.

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