Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Proust Questionnaire on Health Reform

My son, Spencer, who is on the verge of becoming an Episcopal Priest, gave me a book Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire: 101 Luminaries Ponder Love, Death, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life (Rodale, 2009).

Marcel Proust (1871-1922) popularized the questionnaire among Parisians in 1892 by asking everyone within his social circle to take the questionnaire . The idea spread to America. Vanity Fair picked it up in 1993 to probe the inner-thinking of American cultural elite.

I am not among the elite, but I decide to apply it to myself to see what I really think about health reform and its meaning for America.

What is your idea of perfect happiness in health reform?

A health system in which everybody lives in perfect health until they die in bed at 110 with someone else in bed with them and without financial worries and without cost to government.

What is your greatest fear?

That too many well-meaning people will believe this fantasy.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Winston Churchill, who said, “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

What living health reform figure do you most admire?

Regina Herzlinger, a Harvard Business School professor, who believes health consumers are smart people, and with their doctors, consumers will make rational decisions about their health, and John Iglehart, national correspondent for the New England Journal of Medicine, for his even minded treatment of health reform issues.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

That I know more than others.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

That they know more than I do.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Time spent reading about health reform and writing blogs and books on health reform.

What is your favorite journey?

Going to Madrid, Spain, to see my son ordained as an Episcopal priest.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Elitism, the belief of those at the top that they have more wisdom than ordinary people.

On what occasion do you lie?

When I seek to please, avoid a straight answer that would make me cover up a personal ignorance or look immoderate.

What do you dislike most about your appearance?

My age.

What living person do you most despise?

No one. I am not a hater. But I detest intellectual bullies no matter what their political persuasion.

What words or phrases do you most overuse?

Clearly…but…the argument is… on the other hand…Nevertheless.

What is your greatest regret?

That I acted impulsively, did not listen closely, or behaved badly at wrong time and while under the influence.

What is the greatest love of your life?

My wife.

When and where were you happiest?

When I was in Minneapolis, being a successful health care entrepreneur and a medical editor saying what I believed to be the future of health care.

What talent would you most like to have?

Integrity and humility – with a dash of self-promotion. I believe in a sense of dirt, a sense of humor, and a sense of proportion - not necessarily in that order.

What is your current state of mind?

Befuddlement on why the importance of doctors in health reform is so underrated – and ignored.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

To make myself more believable widely read by the public.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Sticking to my guns on health reform.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

A bull in Montana, or a robin in Spring.

What is your most treasured possession?

My mind, may it stay with me until the end.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?


Where would you like to live?

Someplace surrounded by friends.

What is your favorite occupation?


What is your most marked characteristic?

Expression as the need of my soul.

What is the quality you most like in a man?


What is the quality you most like in a woman?


Who are your favorite writers?

E.B. White, Peter Drucker, Lewis Thomas. George Orwell, Ernest Hemingway, Don Marquis, all of whom were full of pith.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

Don Quixote. He and I share a lot in common.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Everett Koop, M.D.

What are you favorite names?

Spencer and Carter, the names of my sons, and Paris, my late French Bulldog

What is it you most dislike?

Closed minds and those who run their mouths before they put their minds in gear.

How would you like to die?


What is your motto?

Patients and physicians do what they feel they have to do and what the system allows them to do. Don’t judge them too harshly. They are simply being human.

Tweet: A book of Marcel Proust questionnai answered by 101 celebrities and one doctor reveals the meaning of Love, Death, Happiness, and Life.

1 comment:

rajumadhur said...

it would be great if you include those Questionnaire questions in the next post...:)