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Caroline Harding

Caroline Harding

Barbara Korsch came to the United States as a young girl. Her family was forced to flee Germany as Hitler rose to power. Her father, Karl Korsch, a professor and Marxist author, was an independent thinker whose rebellious spirit had an impact on a young Barbara.

Korsch attended Smith College and then John Hopkins, where she graduated as a doctor at 23. She first encountered communication problems between doctors and patient's parents while at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center; noting that many families never returned after their initial visit. She searched for an explanation by interviewing the parents and found that most felt the doctors had not understood, or had been insensitive to, their problems. Because of this, she started communication-related courses for pediatric residents. Here, Barbara developed a highly effective method for teaching interpersonal skills: videotaping residents as they interact with patients and then providing feedback from instructors and peers. This was to become her life's work.

While working at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Dr. Korsch spearheaded a study wherein every patient visit was recorded. The interactions were then analyzed and broken down into statistics. The results were presented to a pediatric conference only to be met by icy stares. Dr. Korsch then published an article in the August 1972 edition of Scientific American titled "Doctor-Patient Communication." When the article came out, the magazine received a record response from readers. She continued to meet resistance from many of her peers but she persevered. Over time her work has become accepted by the medical establishment.

Click here to find out more about the Scientific American article, "Doctor-Patient Communication."

Click here to read the article, "The Good Doctor."

Click here for information on the book Dr. Korsch co-authored with Caroline Harding, “The Intelligent Patient’s Guide to the Doctor-Patient Relationship.”