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. I work clinically as an inpatient psychiatrist and 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 grew up in Colorado, studied literature and religion at Swarthmore, and studied medicine, psychiatry, social medicine, and theology at the University of North Carolina and Duke University.

When it was time to practice, I came home. This site gathers some of the work I do. It does not reflect or represent Denver Health or the University of Colorado.

The themes of my work are caring for the underserved and 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

The Finest Traditions of My Calling recounts my experience practicing medicine during healthcare reform, its effects on the patient-physician relationship, and how you can still find joy in practice.

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. 


I work clinically on adult inpatient psychiatry units which care for people 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 while training the next generation of practitioners.

  • Authored and co-authored evidence-based, person-centered guides for the care of persons with mental illness.
  • Previously worked as medical director of an interdisciplinary free clinic and an adult psychiatric unit.
  • Teach as an associate professor of psychiatry and assistant dean of graduate medical education at the University of Colorado School of Medicine while serving on the executive staff of Denver Health.


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. A few years ago, I left social media and resumed reading. Reading builds resiliency and the ability to form therapeutic alliances. Here are some books about doctoring that I have been reading lately. See all book reviews >

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte

The frame distracts from the picture itself: Gilbert is sentimental and fussy, Helen is moralizing but irresitble. Helen’s diary entries are searing accounts of life with an alcoholic and include a maternal version of aversion therapy. Helen is acclaimed as the first feminist protagonist, but she’s a proto-behaviorist as well.

He Held Radical Light, Christian Wiman

“What is want when we can’t stop wanting?,” Wiman asks. I often find medical answers threadbare. Wiman reads poetry, and poet’s lives, and identifies a through line that is both “God and Void, grace and pain.”

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