Abraham Nussbaum

I’m a physician, writer, and teacher curious about the worlds of medicine.

I practice at Denver Health, an academic safety-net system in downtown Denver. I serve as Chief Education Officer and DIO for Denver Health’s health professional education programs, including dentistry, medicine, midwifery, nursing, paramedic, pharmacy, public health, and psychology. I work clinically on its adult inpatient psychiatry units, which care for adults experiencing mental health crises.

I grew up in Colorado, studied literature and religion at Swarthmore, and studied medicine and psychiatry at the University of North Carolina and Duke University, where I learned to deliver evidence-based care for persons with mental illness and participated in schizophrenia research.

The theme of my work is forming human connections between practitioners and the people they meet as patients. I pursue this work through patient care, teaching, reading, writing, exploring, and listening. When you listen well to a person and how they have stuck themselves into the world, they usually surprise you. You can journey together.


The practice of medicine can become routine, one patient after another. To refresh my practice, I write. Writing enables me to share some of the stories of the people I am privileged to meet as patients. Writing clarifies my thought and practice. To date, the chief products of my writing are a memoir, The Finest Traditions of my Calling, and a set of DSM-5 Pocket Guides.

Complete Works

My memoir, The Finest Traditions of My Calling, recounts my experience practicing medicine during healthcare reform and its effects on the patient-physician relationship

I contributed three DSM-5™ Pocket DSM Pocket Guides: the Pocket Guide to the DSM-5™ Diagnostic Exam, The DSM-5™ Pocket Guide to Child and Adolescent Mental Health, and The DSM-5™ Pocket Guide to Elder Mental Health. 


My clinical work is caring for underserved persons experiencing mental health crises. Doing so teaches me to listen to people estranged from themselves and their communities. My calling is to seek ways that I and fellow practitioners can restore such people to health through person-centered and evidence-based care.

  • Authored The Pocket Guide to the DSM-5 Diagnostic Exam and co-authored textbooks for the care of both children and older adults with mental illness that teach this approach.
  • Previously worked as medical director of an interdisciplinary free clinic and an adult psychiatric unit.
  • Currently serve as an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Assistant Dean of Graduate Medical Education at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.


I speak often at international conferences and medical schools about practitioner resilience, patient-centered communication, and lessons learned from caring for persons with mental illness.

Practitioner Resilience
  • The reading cure for physician resiliency. Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. Columbus, OH
  • Listening to noise: outcomes, quality measures, and what we are missing in the physician-patient relationship. Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Nashville, TN
  • Mistaking the map for the territory: how we got lost in the practitioner-patient relationship. University of Utah School of Medicine. Salt Lake City, UT
Patient-Centered Communication and Clinical Interviewing
  • Checklists and Dance Lessons: how psychiatry can move healthcare from reform to renewal. The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. San Antonio, TX
  • The Three Maps of Martha: how we got lost in the physician-patient relationship. Texas Tech University School of Medicine. Lubbock, Texas 2018
  • Talk Like a Shrink. University of Colorado Physician Burnout Conference. Beaver Creek, CO
  • Diagnostic Interviewing using DSM-5 Workshop. American Psychiatric Association. New York, NY
Caring for Persons with Mental Illness
  • Far from Disadvantage: encountering persons with mental illness. Saint Louis University. Saint Louis, MO
  • A Measure Meaningful to Martha: towards measures which build therapeutic alliances. Duke University Medical Center. Durham, NC
  • Mile High Mints and Red Cards: lessons from the first decade of Colorado’s medical marijuana experiment. Yale University School of Medicine. New Haven, CT

The Listening Cure

When your ears are ringing with alarm fatigue, you need music. If you don’t have a Maxell UD II 90 mixtape of your own, try these:  See all playlists >

The Reading Cure

People sometimes confuse psychics and psychiatrists. Shrinks can’t read minds; we read books. Reading builds our resiliency and ability to form therapeutic alliances. Here are some books about doctoring that I have been reading lately. See all book reviews >

Materialism, Terry Eagleton

Physicians talk about burnout as a novel phenomena. Reading Eagleton today reminded me that alienation is the structure of contemporary economic life: “..men and women cease to recognise themselves in the material world they produce. The products of their activity, once appropriated by a system of private ownership, cease to be expressive of that labour, […]

The Collected Schizophrenias, Esme Weijun Wang

Shrinks say schizophrenia is a heterogenous collection of disorders awaiting further understanding. Wang knows the schizophrenias as a range of experiences awaiting further encounter. Includes a description of being hospitalized involuntary all shrinks should read and read again.

Let’s Connect

``May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.``

Hippocratic Oath