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Dr. Lucy M. Candib

Year of Birth / Death

b. 1946

Medical School

Harvard Medical School



Career Path

General medicine: Family
Education: Teaching
Dr. Lucy M. Candib


When I was three years old, according to Helen McSweeney, who looked after me, I used to pick up the phone and say, "Dr. Candib's office." At three I was sure that I wanted to be a doctor, like my father, and many years later I chose to become a family doctor, akin to the general practitioner that he was. Like him, I wanted to write books, and like him I have often acted on behalf of young women in various kinds of trouble. — Dr. Lucy Candib, Introduction to Medicine and the Family. New York: Basic Books/Harper Collins, 1995.


In her teaching, lectures, and writings, Lucy M. Candib, M.D. has raised awareness of various possibilities for improving physician-patient relationships, with a special emphasis on bringing caring to the fore. Dr. Candib has taught and practiced family medicine, including obstetrics, in an urban neighborhood family health center in Worcester, Massachusetts, since 1976. The Family Health Center serves as a residency training site within the University of Massachusetts, where she is a professor of family medicine and community health.

In her book Medicine and the Family: A Feminist Perspective, Dr. Candib explores the assumptions underlying current teachings about child and adult development, sexual abuse, the family life cycle, and family systems. She also examines the ways in which women are often ignored, subordinated, or blamed in the modern medical system. Dr. Candib then shows how "doctors-in-relation" allow caring to become the core of clinical work, and contrasts that to the "traditional" medical emphasis on so-called rationality and objectivity.

For the Women's Health Project at the University of Massachusetts residency program, Dr. Candib has delineated thirteen principles she calls the "Tenets of Women's Health." She has lectured widely on the topics of sexual abuse and violence against women. Over her career, she has also focused attention on the concerns of women trainees and practitioners in her work with family practice residents.

Dr. Candib inspires physicians to get more out of their relationship with their patients and encourages active listening. She also examines the vulnerability of patients, physicians, families, and communities, going beyond the patient perspective to address the effects of societal and economic constraints on physicians and the community.

Physicians deal every day with difficult topics, beyond disease states. Dr. Candib observes that today's health care providers are likely to encounter patients who are survivors of inflicted atrocities and abuse, sometimes the result of genocidal conflicts, and have to work with their suffering. "People fleeing horrendous circumstances bring persisting memories that produce symptoms even for the next generation...Clinicians around the world need to be willing and able to acknowledge and witness the profound sources of experiential pain in the lives of their patients."

In 1995 Dr. Candib won a Fulbright grant to teach family medicine in Ecuador, where she spent a year as visiting professor at Pontificia Catholic University. In 1993 she received the Society for Teachers of Family Medicine (STFM) Excellence in Education Award, which recognizes leadership within the Society for Teachers in support of teaching, curriculum development, research, or other aspects of medical student or resident education. Dr. Candib also received the Outstanding Primary Care Research, Generalist Physician Initiative award in 1997 from University of Massachusetts Medical School. Dr. Candib combines clinical work and teaching three days a week with research, reading, and writing. She lives with her life partner and occasional co-author, Richard Schmitt; together they have raised two children.

Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

As my mother's child, I had to do [doctoring] well, in many arenas, against great odds. From my mother also came the ability to fall back on denial as the defense, indeed the skill, that made survival possible, but at great cost. Dismantling that denial, brick by brick, was a requirement for me to arrive at a feminist understanding of healing. — Dr. Lucy Candib, Introduction to Medicine and the Family. New York: Basic Books/Harper Collins, 1995.

Who was my mentor?

Jim Taylor, then chief medical resident at Boston City Hospital and still the backbone of the East Boston Health Center, rescued me during my first year by letting me follow him around the chaotic emergency room on Saturday nights. John Stoeckle, my undergraduate thesis adviser and a mentor for hundreds of medical students interested in primary care, turned my thesis on the history of neighborhood health centers into a publishable article...Gene Bishop, a longtime friend and college classmate, pulled me into her ambitious plan to set up a free clinic for women and children in Somerville, a working class city next to Cambridge Massachusetts. — Dr. Lucy Candib, Introduction to Medicine and the Family. New York: Basic Books/Harper Collins, 1995.

How has my career evolved over time?

In those years [the 1970s] family practice was just forming as a specialty...As a fledgling specialty, it appealed to dissidents, mavericks, and generalists at heart like me...At that time family medicine identified itself as counter-cultural; it proposed an alternative way to doctor. From a chance comment in a parking lot, I was referred to John Frey, who was starting a family practice residency in a neighborhood health center in Worcester. I joined that residency as a second year resident with my practice in that urban health center serving mostly women and children...I am still at that neighborhood health center....Within family medicine...I have found a small broup of feminist family doctors who join me in developing a feminist approach to our work. — Dr. Lucy Candib, Introduction to Medicine and the Family. New York: Basic Books/Harper Collins, 1995.