Slowing Down

Notable author and physician Victoria Sweet visited Berry recently to speak about her book “God’s Hotel:  A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine,” which was the summer reading assignment for all incoming students. 

Every year, new students are assigned a summer reading book that encompasses many of the varying themes they will encounter as they begin a new phase of their lives at Berry. Several hundred Berry students filled the Cage Athletic and Recreation Center to hear Sweet.

“Reading [Victoria Sweet’s] book was a great experience and an interesting parallel between the medical field and the Christian faith,” said freshman Aaron Morrison.

“God’s Hotel” is based off of Sweet’s time as a doctor at San Francisco’s Laguna Honda Hospital and follows the stories of her patients at one of the last almshouses in the country, where technological advances and healthcare efficiencies are few, but time is plentiful. In this chronic care facility for the city’s indigent, doctors have the luxury of getting to know their patients, listening to their stories, observing their conditions and mulling the best course of treatment for each individual.  

Throughout the book Sweet shares her own transformation from a busy young physician to a seasoned practitioner of what she calls “slow medicine”, a practice which allows a doctor enough time to get to know his or her patients leading to the best results.  

Her experiences at Laguna Honda helped some students realize the similarities between Berry and the last almshouse.

“I thought it was very relevant to freshmen,” said first-year mentor and senior Garrett Bennett. “It’s a mixture of science and history and she touched upon everything that makes a liberal arts school in her book.”

Sweet is an associate clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, as well as a prize-winning historian with a Ph.D. in history.

Written by Student Public Relations Assistant Victoria Mashburn. Photos by  student photographers  Shannon Bostic, Lauren Neumann and Sydney Romer.