Abraham Nussbaum

Physician and writer traveling the strange worlds of medicine.

I grew up in Southern Colorado and read my way to Swarthmore, which earned me a starter gig stuffing pasta shells. 1st job next to medicine? Ferrying homeless people away from unwelcoming hospitals. 1st job in medicine? Cancelling holidays for overworked internal medicine residents. Strange-making stuff.

Seeking some sense of it all, I studied medicine, psychiatry, social medicine, and theology at Carolina and Duke.

When school was out, I headed home to be with family, to work off my student loans, and to be a small part of my home state’s safety-net.

So I work at Denver Health, an academic safety-net system, working administratively as Chief Education Officer and, clinically, as an inpatient psychiatrist. Listening to the people I meet surprises me, so I read and write.


The practice of medicine can become a confusing routine. To clarify my practice, I write, sharing some of my experiences with the people I meet as patients and learners. To date, the chief artifacts are a memoir, The Finest Traditions of My Calling, a quartet of DSM-5 Pocket Guides, and Prescribing Together. I have also written for America, Commonweal, Psych News, STAT, Plough, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Times Higher Education. More soon…

Complet(ish) Works

The Finest Traditions of My Calling recounts practicing medicine during healthcare reform. Reform altered the patient-physician relationship, but you could still find what Hippocrates called the “joy of healing.”

To help practitioners like me listen better, we put together DSM Pocket Guides: the Pocket Guide to the DSM-5™ Diagnostic Exam, The DSM-5™ Pocket Guide to Child and Adolescent Mental Health, The DSM-5™ Pocket Guide to Elder Mental Health, and The Pocket Guide to the DSM-5-TR™ Diagnostic Exam.

Complet(ish) Works

Prescribing Together brings together the wisdom of leading clinicians and innovative researchers. We can prescribe (and deprescribe) better for the people we meet as patients.

Note to the voices inside my own head: A little quiet, Please!, your WIP needs better attention than your divided thoughts. Perhaps: a charge nurse?

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 >

Persuasion, Jane Austen

Austen describes a nurse “… a shrewd, intelligent, sensible woman. Hers is a line for seeing human nature; and she has a fund of good sense and observation which, as a companion, make her infinitely superior to thousands of those who having only received ‘the best education in the world,’ know nothing worth attending to.” … and describes herself at the same time. The “only” kills me.

Insane, Alisa Roth

A deeply-reported account of people with mental illness are ensnared in our jails and prisons. Roth doesn’t land all her punches, but shows that our accepted account of how these places became mental health facilities is a just-so story. Real reform will apply to the de facto and de jure mental health systems.


I teach locally and speak often at medical schools, colleges, and international conferences. Folks usually ask to hear about practitioner resilience, patient-centered communication, educational reform, and lessons learned from caring for persons with mental illness. My favorite speaking gigs? Talking about the reading and listening cures. (Med students may want to play the Hippocampus Game.)


  • Work clinically on adult inpatient psychiatry units which care for people experiencing mental health crises. Always seeking ways to care for marginalized people through person-centered and evidence-based care while training the next generation of practitioners.
  • Previously served as medical director of an interdisciplinary free clinic and an adult psychiatry service.
  • Authored and co-authored evidence-based, person-centered guides for the care of persons with mental illness.
  • Teach as a 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. (Caveat lector: Nothing here represents DH or CUSOM.)

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