top of page


Published Author



Background Story

Samuel Shem, Professor of Medicine in Medical Humanities at NYU Medical School, is a novelist, playwright, and activist. His first novel, The House of God, was called “one of the two most important American medical novels of the 20th century” by The Lancet and was chosen by Publishers Weekly as #2 on its list of “The 10 Best Satires of All Time” (#1 Don Quixote, #3 Catch-22).


His novel on psychiatric training, Mount Misery, was called “another classic—biting, humorous, superb.” The Spirit of the Place won two American "Best Literary Novel of the Year” awards, and At The Heart of the Universe was described by Abraham Verghese as “poignant and tender, a novel about love, parenting, and the nature of home—a lovely transformative story.” Shem and Janet Surrey’s award-winning play Bill W. and Dr. Bob, about the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, ran Off Broadway for a year.

"With Janet Surrey he has also written The Buddha's Wife: A Novel with Commentary, and We Have to Talk: Healing Dialogues between Women and Men."  And an essay: Fiction as Resistance.    He is an in demand speaker all over the world on "How to Stay Human in Medicine." 


Graduating from Harvard and Harvard Medical School, Shem was a Rhodes Scholar with a DPhil in Physiology at Oxford and on the Harvard Medical faculty for decades. Honored as a Visiting Artist/Scholar at The American Academy in Rome, he is an in-demand speaker around the world, and has given over sixty commencement speeches on “How to Stay Human in Medicine.”

bottom of page