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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Tag: medicine (page 1 of 2)

Influenza by Jeremy Brown

On the 100th anniversary of the devastating pandemic of 1918, Jeremy Brown, a veteran ER doctor, explores the troubling, terrifying, and complex history of the flu virus, from the origins of the Great Flu that killed millions, to vexing questions such as: are we prepared for the next epidemic, should you get a flu shot, and how close are we to finding a cure?

While influenza is now often thought of as a common and mild disease, it still kills over 30,000 people in the US each year. Dr. Jeremy Brown, currently Director of Emergency Care Research at the National Institutes of Health, expounds on the flu’s deadly past to solve the mysteries that could protect us from the next outbreak. In Influenza, he talks with leading epidemiologists, policy makers, and the researcher who first sequenced the genetic building blocks of the original 1918 virus to offer both a comprehensive history and a roadmap for understanding what’s to come.
Dr. Brown digs into the discovery and resurrection of the flu virus in the frozen victims of the 1918 epidemic, as well as the bizarre remedies that once treated the disease, such as whiskey and blood-letting. Influenza also breaks down the current dialogue surrounding the disease, explaining the controversy over vaccinations, antiviral drugs like Tamiflu, and the federal government’s role in preparing for pandemic outbreaks. Though 100 years of advancement in medical research and technology have passed since the 1918 disaster, Dr. Brown warns that many of the most vital questions about the flu virus continue to confound even the leading experts.
Influenza is an enlightening and unnerving look at a shapeshifting deadly virus that has been around long before people—and warns us that it may be many more years before we are able to conquer it for good.

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC!

Yes, this is another book on the influenza pandemic of 1918 – my goal is to read them all. Seriously, it is always good to compare one with the other and possibly learn new information. One new angle with this book is that the author discusses the Tamiflu controversy in detail (I wasn’t aware of the issues behind this drug, and the backstory makes the juxtaposition with the pandemic particularly chilling). Another angle is that this book is not restricted to the 1918 outbreak; there is a discussion of the virus in general, what type of research has been done, and puts forth the probability of when/how another outbreak could be possible.

One of my favorite portions of the book was the story behind the exhumed victims and how the virus was recovered from their bodies. The author’s respect for their sacrifice shines clearly through in this section, which is detailed but not gory. The gore factor is minimal, compared to other books on influenza or diseases in particular.

The fact that the author is a medical doctor means that he’s done his research and can strike the balance between med-speak and conveying his ideas to the general public. The book is very easy to read and eminently understandable. I read this over the course of a few days and it kept me interested throughout. It is always refreshing when an author can take a subject and provide a fresh, relevant look at it.

You can pick up your own copy here.

The Atlas of Disease by Sandra Hempel

 

Behind every disease is a story, a complex narrative woven of multiple threads, from the natural history of the disease, to the tale of its discovery and its place in history.
But what is vital in all of this is how the disease spreads and develops. In The Atlas of Disease, Sandra Hempel reveals how maps have uncovered insightful information about the history of disease, from the seventeenth century plague maps that revealed the radical idea that diseases might be carried and spread by humans, to cholera maps in the 1800s showing the disease was carried by water, right up to the AIDs epidemic in the 1980s and the recent Ebola outbreak.

Crucially, The Atlas of Disease will also explore how cartographic techniques have been used to combat epidemics by revealing previously hidden patterns. These discoveries have changed the course of history, affected human evolution, stimulated advances in medicine and shaped the course of countless lives.

Thanks to NetGalley for granting my wish to access this ARC! For anyone who is interested in the history of disease, this book is a dream come true. The author delves into each disease with a thoughtful manner and straightforward way, using maps of the world to show the spread of each illness. These maps add a new dimension of understanding to the text, and underscore how devastating the spread of disease can be. The trail of germs is traced across the continents for each disease, adding a quiet horror to the author’s words.  This alone makes the book worth buying – no other book I’ve read with this subject has illustrations quite like this. Interspersed in the chapters are other bits of artwork, either paintings of people suffering or government posters warning townfolk of the ravages of the flu, yellow fever, measles, and the like. THE ATLAS OF DISEASE stands out head and shoulders among other novels in this genre.

There are 4 sections to the book: airborne, waterborne, insects and animals, and human to human. Each chapter in the section then outlines a disease, from AIDS to Zika. The opening page has the disease name, the causal agent, transmission, symptoms, incidence and deaths, prevalence, prevention, treatment, and global strategy. For example, diptheria’s incidence and deaths statement lets us know that the germ causes around 5,000 cases per year worldwide, with 5-10% cases being fatal. The global strategy notes that there are childhood vaccination programs, but the World Health Organization (WHO) describes it as a “forgotten” disease. On the opposite page there is a painting by Francisco de Goya showing a man holding a child on his lap, supporting his head with his left hand while he probes the child’s mouth with his right. The work is entitled El Lazarillo de Tormes or El Garrotillo (“Diptheria”). When you turn the page you see illustrations of how the illness attacks the lining of the throat, causing the victim to strangle and suffocate.

I can honestly say I have learned more from this book than from many others I’ve read. The writer’s style is straightforward, sharing facts without drama, and extremely easy to comprehend. You won’t need a medical background to appreciate ATLAS. The author’s fascination with these illnesses is clearly portrayed on every page, as well as her depth of research. I cannot say enough superlatives about this book – it is far and away the best work I’ve read this year.  If you are a devotee of disease, you will treasure this work forever.  And for those of you who are not – please still read this. You will learn, you will be shocked, and you will appreciate the fragility of life.

Pick up your copy here.

Playing the Ponies and Other Medical Mysteries Solved by Stuart B. Mushlin

With over forty years of experience as a sought after diagnostician, Dr. Stuart Mushlin has cracked his share of medical mysteries, ones in which there are bigger gambles than playing the ponies at the track. Some of his patients show up with puzzling symptoms, calling for savvy medical detective work. Others seem to present cut-and-dry cases, but they turn out to be suffering from rare or serious conditions.

In Playing the Ponies and Other Medical Mysteries Solved, Dr. Mushlin shares some of the most intriguing cases he has encountered, revealing the twists and turns of each patient’s diagnosis and treatment process. Along the way, he imparts the secrets to his success as a medical detective—not specialized high-tech equipment, but time-honored techniques like closely observing, touching, and listening to patients. He also candidly describes cases where he got things wrong, providing readers with honest insights into both the joys and dilemmas of his job.
Dr. Mushlin does not just treat diseases; he treats people. And this is not just a book about the ailments he diagnosed; it is also about the scared, uncertain, ailing individuals he helped in the process. Filled with real-life medical stories you’ll have to read to believe, Playing the Ponies is both a suspenseful page-turner and a heartfelt reflection on a life spent caring for patients.

Thanks, Rutgers University Press, for this review copy!

This book should be enjoyed most by those in the medical field. It’s a no-frills, straightforward collection of odd cases and the mental acuity needed to solve them. There is minimal gore, yet there is excellent description of the patient and how he is suffering. Each chapter is a new disease process, with the thorough history given, then the doctor’s thought process. Most of the cases have an ending; there are a few where the patient is not seen again or fails to return for a recheck visit.

Some cases are difficult merely because the patient is not forthcoming with complete medical history, where others are truly “zebras” instead of horses (There is a famous statement that notes when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras). Each case can be read on its own, with no continuity between chapters – great for absorbing a single chapter before bed.

Mushlin notes that he was an English major before he went to medical school, something that has held him in great stead as he examines patients. He notes how important it is to listen to their words as well as the silence between the words. Imagine that – a doctor taking the time to actually listen to their patient’s complaints! Mushlin’s quiet and caring bedside manner shines through on every page, even when he is handling an especially recalcitrant patient he does his best to care for her.

All four of the reviews noted on the back of the book jacket are from medical doctors, and expound on the joy of reading this book. Most of the reviews online by lay people are positive, except for someone who calls the writing wooden, and feels the stories are too short. I feel the reviewer was not familiar with this type of book; namely, a kind that minimizes drama and emphasizes the medicine. Mushlin’s style is plain and full of information. I understood everything he was saying, because I am a veterinary nurse and quite familiar with the workings of the body. In fact, I can say this is one of the few books I have read that gave so much detail on each patient before the diagnosis was discussed. I felt as if I were part of Dr Mushlin’s team with the patient right in front of me.

The only part of the book that I have a complaint about is in the chapter Learning From The Patient. The author notes that they practiced studies in a dog lab, so as to learn about basic physiologic processes. He goes on to note that “…the human body is not the same as a dog’s, humans are much more complex…”. This frustrated me, as I feel that many canine and human diseases are shared, such as diabetes, cancer, Addison’s, and neurologic issues. Each species is a complex being, similar yet different. I took his statement as demeaning to dogs and animals in general. Veterinary medicine is just as complex as human medicine, and requires the same mental and emotional effort to heal those patients. Perhaps if Dr Mushlin spent some time at an emergency veterinary hospital he would understand my feedback.

That concern was the only negative feedback I have for PLAYING THE PONIES – I found it a stimulating and fascinating read; educational without being taxing. Every patient should have a Dr Mushlin caring for him.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0813570557″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

MED SCHOOL UNCENSORED by Richard Beddingfield

[easyazon_link identifier=”0399579702″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]Med School Uncensored: The Insider’s Guide to Surviving Admissions, Exams, Residency, and Sleepless Nights in the Call Room[/easyazon_link]

An entertaining insider’s guide to the good, the bad, and the ugly of med school–with everything pre-med and med students need to know, from day one, to maximize opportunities and avoid mistakes.
Cardiothoracic anesthesiologist and recent med school grad Dr. Richard Beddingfield serves as an unofficial older brother for pre-med and incoming med students–dishing on all the stuff he would’ve wanted to know from the beginning in order to make the most of med school’s opportunities, while staying sane through the gauntlets of applying to and succeeding at med school, residency, fellowship, and starting work as a new physician. With advice from additional recent Ivy League med school grads and top-tier hospital residents, this all-in-one guide is a must-have for everyone who dreams of becoming a doctor.

 

Many thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!

Richard Beddingfield is a kind and thoughtful man. Why do I say that? Because he spent a lot of time on creating a book to help pre-med students decide if that was the right career path for them. I can imagine graduates learning about this and saying “Why didn’t I have this to guide me??”.

MED SCHOOL UNCENSORED takes you from start to finish, explaining the tests, interviews, reasoning, and opportunities you will experience on the path to become a licensed doctor. He plays devil’s advocate; which I found refreshing – if your grades here are lower than peer X, then you need to do better on this; if your grades still don’t improve by this date, consider another career; no, there is no way to do this if you don’t do that; etc.

Each chapter represents a different step on the journey, with examples, personal stories, and the “why” behind it all. There is even some history thrown in comparing how things were done in the past and how they have changed. This is the kind of book that every type of career needs, to help someone make a decision on what learning path they want to take. The author notes everything important with great detail, using easy to understand examples. Nothing is sugar coated here – there is honest discussion of the ups and downs, pitfalls and joys of becoming a doctor. Bedingfield’s writing is clean and smooth, easy to digest, and generally benign.

There is not much of a plot to comment on in this review; but I will say I enjoyed the progression of the chapters. Things went from simple to complicated  in the order that they needed to; and it will be easy for the reader to grasp what comes next on the journey.

Anyone that is considering going to med school should pick this up before they finish high school, so as to obtain the proper education and extracurriculars needed to create an outstanding CV. This is exactly the book that should be in a parent’s or guidance counselor’s arsenal.

 

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0399579702″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Doctors At War by Mark De Rond

doctors

Doctors at War is a candid account of a trauma surgical team based, for a tour of duty, at a field hospital in Helmand, Afghanistan. Mark de Rond tells of the highs and lows of surgical life in hard-hitting detail, bringing to life a morally ambiguous world in which good people face impossible choices and in which routines designed to normalize experience have the unintended effect of highlighting war’s absurdity. With stories that are at once comical and tragic, de Rond captures the surreal experience of being a doctor at war. He lifts the cover on a world rarely ever seen, let alone written about, and provides a poignant counterpoint to the archetypical, adrenaline-packed, macho tale of what it is like to go to war.

Here the crude and visceral coexist with the tender and affectionate. The author tells of well-meaning soldiers at hospital reception, there to deliver a pair of legs in the belief that these can be reattached to their comrade, now in mid-surgery; of midsummer Christmas parties and pancake breakfasts and late-night sauna sessions; of interpersonal rivalries and banter; of caring too little or too much; of tenderness and compassion fatigue; of hell and redemption; of heroism and of playing God. While many good firsthand accounts of war by frontline soldiers exist, this is one of the first books ever to bring to life the experience of the surgical teams tasked with mending what war destroys.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing this review copy!

The author starts out by saying that this book was never supposed to be published, due to the subject matter and the way it was perceived to be handled. That only added more intrigue to the story, to me, and I was eager to begin reading.

The story is akin to the book/TV series MASH, with beleaguered surgeons, war all around them, stress, and dark ways to relieve the boredom. There is a great deal of loss of life complicated by military rules and the Hippocratic Oath – beware, as the injuries are horrific and discussed in great detail.

The author is British; so I expected his writing style to be a bit different from American writers. In fact, I even welcomed it, as I look forward to non-American cadences and dialects in books. What I hadn’t bargained for was uneven writing with obscure phrasing. At times it’s hard to understand who is saying what, and there was no deep insight made on the choices the doctors had to make. At the 75% mark I realized I had not really absorbed anything meaningful except that war is hell, these surgeons were doing the best they could, and sometimes there was strangeness (the usual black humor and Christmas in July) to help the soldier’s mental states. The same type of story was repeated over and over again (wounded too badly, euthanized with pain meds/crashing boredom dealt with by playing card games and trying to stay cool in the desert/occasional platitude about life) without variance or emotion.

Somehow this writer managed to make a wartime hospital seem dull. The characters are an amalgam, and so perhaps could not have been made more detailed; but I think it would have been better if he had given a little more detail about why they were doctors, what made this tour of duty different from others, etc.

It’s a shame that such an important subject matter was reduced to an unsatisfying bite of pablum, as there is a need to understand what the military deals with during extended conflicts. Heart of Darkness, Catch-22, and On Call In Hell expressed the story in a more readable and gratifying way. I gave up at the abovementioned 75% mark; something I don’t do often, but I just didn’t want to waste any more time. Great subject – bad handling.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1501705482″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

Ether Day by Julie M Fenster

ether

Ether Day is the unpredictable story of America’s first major scientific discovery — the use of anesthesia — told in an absorbing narrative that traces the dawn of modern surgery through the lives of three extraordinary men. Ironically, the “discovery” was really no discovery at all: Ether and nitrous oxide had been known for more than forty years to cause insensitivity to pain, yet, with names like “laughing gas,” they were used almost solely for entertainment. Meanwhile, patients still underwent operations during which they saw, heard, and felt every cut the surgeon made. The image of a grim and grisly operating room, like the one in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, was in fact starkly accurate in portraying the conditions of surgery before anesthesia.

With hope for relief seemingly long gone, the breakthrough finally came about by means of a combination of coincidence and character, as a cunning Boston dentist crossed paths with an inventive colleague from Hartford and a brilliant Harvard-trained physician. William Morton, Horace Wells, and Charles Jackson: a con man, a dreamer, and an intellectual. Though Wells was crushed by derision when he tried to introduce anesthetics, Morton prevailed, with help from Jackson. The result was Ether Day, October 16, 1846, celebrated around the world. By that point, though, no honor was enough. Ether Day was not only the dawn of modern surgery, but the beginning of commercialized medicine as well, as Morton patented the discovery.

What followed was a battle so bitter that it sent all three men spiraling wildly out of control, at the same time that anesthetics began saving countless lives. Meticulously researched and masterfully written, Ether Day is a riveting look at one of history’s most remarkable untold stories.

Thanks to the author for gifting me this book for review!

ETHER DAY is meticulously researched; the characters are brought to life via the detailed descriptions of their lives and mental states.

To think that people were operated on with no care for their pain, yet Laughing Gas (ether) was used by non medical people for fun and escape, is mind boggling. No one made the connection between the two until William Morton, Horace Wells, and Charles Jackson “discovered” the other uses of this gas.

The fact that these three men’s lives overlapped was both good and bad: the discovery of ether as an anesthetic made both patient’s and surgeon’s lives better, but there was a lot of vitriol and ego involved as well. Each stood to make his fortune via ether, yet their lives were not always brightened by their actions.

Fenster has clearly done her research: there is both an index and endnotes, showing the comprehensive reading she did to recreate this story. She also includes a bibliography for further reading. The 1800’s come to life under her expert prose and background detail. I especially enjoyed the explanation of how the gas was delivered, and how the machines were tinkered with to provide a more accurate mixing of gas and air. The fact that these men experimented on themselves shows both folly and determination – in Chapter 14, Chlory, there is a section about scientists sniffing different concoctions of gases to figure out the best combination.

Every Thursday evening they would gather at the Simpson home, sitting around the dining table to inhale candidate chemicals. “I selected for experiment and have inhaled several chemical liquids of a more fragrant and agreeable odor,” Simpson wrote in a medical journal during the course of his research, “such as the chlorine of hydrocarbon, acetone, nitrate of oxide of ethyle, benzin, the vapour of chloroform, etc.”

One old friend, a professor named Miller, made a habit of dropping by at breakfast time every Friday, so he said, to see if anyone was dead. 

The lengths these men went to in the name of science is unheard of today. As the book jacket notes, Ether Day is a little known anniversary, yet without the actions of these men there would have been greater suffering in this world. They were not heros, either – just men trying to make money or a name for themselves, who fell into a bizarre chain of events that would send them all down a crazy rabbit hole and eventually break them.

Author Julie Fenster has brought the memory of these men out of the past and placed it firmly into our awareness with ETHER DAY. I commend her for choosing her subject wisely and keeping this discovery relevant, in a new way.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0060933178″ locale=”US” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

How The Art Of Medicine Makes The Science More Effective by Claudia Welch

art of medicine

Does the art of medicine matter? Does it really help us become better doctors and improve results? Dr. Claudia Welch explores how the effectiveness of a physician extends far beyond the ability to prescribe correct treatments, and how mastering the art of doctoring can make the medicine more effective.
Drawing on Eastern medical traditions and experience as well as on Western science, Dr. Welch examines how we know what we know, the mechanics of doctor-patient emotional contagion, and the degree to which a patient’s sensory experience in a medical office affects their experience of treatments delivered. Dr. Welch also offers practical steps that doctors can take to cultivate more refined perceptive abilities and improve results.

Dr. Welch’s book will be essential reading for all health care practitioners interested in understanding the art of their practice and how it can enhance therapeutic outcomes, including doctors of Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, Naturopathy, as well as western medical professionals and other complementary health practitioners.

 

Thanks to NetGalley for offering this book for review!

I was pretty excited to see what this book would have to say about combining the tenets of Eastern and Western medicine, for there are certainly values to both. However, I was consistently underwhelmed by the author’s ideas, and some of them seemed way out there.

Perhaps it’s instinct to me that a physician cares for his patients, that he takes care of his own health, that he provides a welcoming and healing atmosphere for them. Apparently this does not always happen, as Welch puts forth all these suggestions in the book. I will say, that the idea of making waiting rooms a little quieter and mellower with soft colors and quiet music sounds wonderful. HIPAA laws force sick people to sit in rooms with the TV blaring away, lest we overhear sensitive health information belonging to other patients. There has got to be a better way, and Welch outlines this in a way that had me in full agreement. (See chapter 12, Healing Through Environment.)

However, the rest of the book was not captivating to me at all. Her suggestions for communication between doctors and patients were all spot on, but again common sense for me. Do all doctors talk the same way to everyone? I thought they were more empathetic, seeing the patient’s personality and using a method of communication modified to each person.

Another suggestion is to have longer appointments and sit quietly so the doctor can feel the patient’s vibrations and let the body tell the history. In today’s hustle and bustle double booked appointment schedule, there is probably no way any doctor will be able to sit quietly with a patient and take their pulse for 15 minutes, and look into their eyes and their soul and figure out if their Qi is unbalanced. I’m sure a little dose of slowing things down would be immensely helpful, but that’s not how it’s done in Western medicine. Perhaps this is one area that would benefit from the author’s suggestions.

Welch also talks about doctors keeping an optimistic outlook for very sick patients, saying that multiple studies have proven the effect of positivity. (Chapter 19, Choosing Hope.) That is also a no brainer for me, and seems to be the norm in my dealings with my own doctors. I’ve never had one tell me things were hopeless, and I’m also sure doctors who treat people with cancer are as supportive as they can be.

In Chapter 32, Reflections on Part III,  the author talks about the benefits of dexterity; not solely physical, but mental and emotional as well.

Practicing dexterity keeps our thinking flexible and our minds open and receptive to possibilities beyond our ability to predict. This can only further refine our confidence, humility, communication, empathy, and diagnostic accuracy, and result in better outcomes for our patients. (I)t would not be amiss to add dexterity to the list of qualities central to the art of medicine. 

This may be all I found germane in this book. Throughout the pages can be found stories  that strain credulity; such as the tale of how a guru healed a boy after all else failed, simply because the guru was leading a purified life and had disciplined thoughts. There is another story of how the author’s sister was in labor, ACTUAL labor two months early, and the power of positive thinking stopped the labor. I found that a bit hard to believe. (Or else it was Braxton-Hicks contractions, no matter what Welch says.)

When I read about a patient that had chronic yeast infections and it was determined that “astrological influences” were causing the infections, and all the woman had to do was continue taking the medication for 6 months (until the influences passed), I was ready to close the book and be done. The gap between Eastern and Western medicine is perhaps due to thinking like this.

Finally (yes, I kept reading) I reached a point where the author was talking about herbs and plants to heal. (Chapter 42, Potency.) The chapter progressed from information about biological responses, such as when plants secrete a noxious substance to protect themselves from insects, to a statement about being respectful to plants so as to preserve their healing qualities.

I agree we need to respect the Earth and treat our surroundings carefully; but I don’t feel that

If we are indifferent or violent to plants, they may alter their qualities and actions — their very chemistry — in an attempt to protect themselves from us. This may initiate a chain reaction, altering kindred plants, other species, and the environment.

At this point, I gave up reading. I felt I had nothing else to learn from the book. There are certainly practitioners and patients that will benefit from the ideas put forth in these pages, but I can’t say I agree with it all.

HOW THE ART OF MEDICINE MAKES THE SCIENCE MORE EFFECTIVE is well written, thought provoking, and does have ideas that will aid a thoughtful physician in his practice. But not everyone will agree with the Eastern medicine way of thinking.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”1848192290″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly by Matt McCarthy

 

real doctor

In medical school, Matt McCarthy dreamed of being a different kind of doctor—the sort of mythical, unflappable physician who could reach unreachable patients. But when a new admission to the critical care unit almost died his first night on call, he found himself scrambling. Visions of mastery quickly gave way to hopes of simply surviving hospital life, where confidence was hard to come by and no amount of med school training could dispel the terror of facing actual patients.

This funny, candid memoir of McCarthy’s intern year at a New York hospital provides a scorchingly frank look at how doctors are made, taking readers into patients’ rooms and doctors’ conferences to witness a physician’s journey from ineptitude to competence. McCarthy’s one stroke of luck paired him with a brilliant second-year adviser he called “Baio” (owing to his resemblance to the Charles in Charge star), who proved to be a remarkable teacher with a wicked sense of humor. McCarthy would learn even more from the people he cared for, including a man named Benny, who was living in the hospital for months at a time awaiting a heart transplant. But no teacher could help McCarthy when an accident put his own health at risk, and showed him all too painfully the thin line between doctor and patient.

The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly
offers a window on to hospital life that dispenses with sanctimony and self-seriousness while emphasizing the black-comic paradox of becoming a doctor: How do you learn to save lives in a job where there is no practice?

 

 

Not all doctors come with the confidence and arrogance familiar to us all. Every one of them started out the same way – new graduates in their intern year, struggling to assimilate their textbook knowledge with real life. Matt McCarthy shares his experience in a self deprecating and sometimes comic way.

Taking place over a year’s time, THE REAL DOCTOR WILL SEE YOU SHORTLY shows the reader how McCarthy matures as a doctor and as a self-aware human. He was so awkward and hesitant in the beginning, I wondered if he was going to make it through the year. At times I wondered what made him so timid. There was a career decision elaborated upon early in the book, and I was disappointed in his choice. I truly felt he made the wrong move, given his character and personality. In the final part of the book, he addresses that choice and why he made it. Those words provided some sort of closure for me and I finally agreed with his decision. In his own words:

But as the year wore on, I developed the ability to think outside the diagnosis,  beyond the science of medicine to the art of medicine. I discovered that there is so much more to being a doctor than ordering tests and dispensing medications. And there is no way to teach that. It simply takes time and repetition. 

…I was meant to do whatever the hell you’d call the extraordinary stuff we did at Columbia. Intern year had fundamentally changed me–it had altered the way I viewed the world and myself–and it was unquestionably the most fun I never wanted to have again. 

Patients and cases are outlined, some with great detail, others just to show what lessons he was learning. One of the complaints I have is that some patients’ stories end abruptly with McCarthy never seeing the person again; others just aren’t followed up on. I understand that real life is like that, and these patients are composites of many; but I grew frustrated with things not being tied up neatly. Two cases that loomed large in the author’s life: Benny Santos and Carl Gladstone are featured in almost every chapter, as they illustrate just how far things have progressed over the year. Others, like “Dre” and asthmatic Darryl, just vanish into the night.

That really is my only issue with THE REAL DOCTOR. McCarthy’s writing is easy to follow, and pulls no punches in showing the lay person how hard doctors work and the struggles, internal and external, they face on a daily basis.  There is a minimum of gory details, and the medical jargon is easy to grasp. Nor is there the overly glib, broadly humorous style I’ve seen in other books. That was a relief, as I think that takes away from the truly serious nature of the subject

This was a good addition to my “true medical stories” bookshelf. Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0804138656″ locale=”US” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. Check out the author’s page here.

 

 

 

The Nurses by Alexandra Robbins

 

nurses

 

 

In this lively, fast-paced narrative, New York Times bestselling author Alexandra Robbins digs deep into the subculture of nursing, drawing readers into a brilliantly captivating in-depth investigation of the extraordinary working lives of nurses and the shocking behind-the-scenes secrets that all patients and their loved ones need to know.

The Nurses is told through the real-life stories of four women in different hospitals: Molly, funny, well-loved, and confident enough to quit a longtime job after her hospital ramps up its anti-nurse policies. Lara, a superstar nurse who tries to battle her way back from a near-ruinous prescription-drug addiction. The outspoken but compassionate Juliette, a fierce advocate for her patients. And Sam, a first-year nurse, struggling to find her way in a gossipy mean-girl climate she likens to “high school, except for the dying people.”

Readers will root for these bedside heroes, who operate in a world filled with joy and violence, miracles and heartbreak, dark humor and gripping drama. It’s a world of hazing—“nurses eat their young.” Sex—not exactly like on TV, but more prevalent than many imagine. Drug abuse—disproportionately a problem among the best and the brightest. There are true-life archetypes—the handsome, suave doctor, the patient brought back from death, the hunky male nurse. And bullying—by peers, by patients, by hospital bureaucrats, and especially by doctors, an epidemic described as lurking in the “shadowy, dark corners of our profession.”

The result is a riveting page-turner, insightful and thought-provoking, that will leave readers feeling smarter about their healthcare and undeniably appreciative of the incredible nurses who provide it.

Thanks to Net Galley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Alexandra Robbins is familiar with bringing the reader into a closed society; she is the author of [easyazon_link identifier=”0786888598″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities[/easyazon_link]. Her research is exhaustive, thorough and massive. For THE NURSES, she has interviewed hundreds of nursing professionals, active and retired, along with intensive reading of healthcare related books.

The plot is exactly as described–we are following the stories of four nurses as they navigate their way through their workdays at different hospitals. The workplaces are vastly different; one is in a low income area and very dangerous, another is in a better area but understaffed, yet another employs a staff that is closeminded and cliquey.  Each chapter covers a different subject, such as interpersonal difficulties, healthcare in general, the physical danger to nurses, availability of loose drugs and therefore the potential to become hooked, and the doctor’s and healthcare industry’s attitude towards nurses in general.

As I read, I simply could not believe what I was seeing. My perception of nursing changed 180 degrees as I made my way through the book. Discard your vision of a glamorous, overpaid, angel in white. Be prepared to hear about nurses getting fired for following doctor’s orders, drunk patients wreaking havoc and causing serious permanent injury, staff surfing the Internet and being “too busy” to give aid to their coworkers, and the overwhelming, constant burden of having too many patients under your care.

The more I read, the less I want to be anywhere near a hospital.

Gore and lengthy descriptions of medical procedures are not a part of this book. Rather, there are recountings of conversations, incidents, and situations that these nurses found themselves dealing with on a daily basis.  The book is detailed and can be a bit long winded, just a bit, especially with some of the statistics that seem to go on for a while, but they are relevant and serve to educate the reader.

I’m interested to see what the nursing community has to say about this book–will there be an outpouring of agreement, or is Robbins sensationalizing the truth? Either way, THE NURSES is well written and thrusts you into a world most of us don’t normally see. Most of us probably aren’t even aware that this shady underbelly of medicine exists. Kudos to Robbins for bringing it to the forefront.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”0761171711″ locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

 

 

Internal Medicine by Terrence Holt

Z

A collection of essays about life as a surgical intern.

Terrence Holt, whose In the Valley of the Kings was hailed as a “work of genius” (New York Times) and made Amazon’s Top Ten Short Story Collections of the year, brings a writer’s eye and a doctor’s touch to this powerful account of residency.

Intense, ironic, heartfelt, and heartbreaking, these nine vivid stories put us at the bedside of a patient dying in a house full of cursing parrots, through a nightmarish struggle to convince a man that he has cancer, at a life-and-death effort to keep an oxygen mask on a claustrophobic patient, and in the lounge of a snowbound hospital where doctors swap yarns through the night.

Out of these “dioramas from the Museum of Human Misery”, Holt draws meaning, beauty, wonder, and truth. Personal, poignant, and meticulously precise, these stories evoke Chekhov, Maugham, and William Carlos Williams, admitting readers to the beating heart of medicine. Internal Medicine is an account of what it means to be a doctor, to be mortal, and to be human.

This book was on my “to-read” list, so I picked it up from the library. Attempts to reach the author for a review/giveaway copy were unsuccessful.

It only took a few pages for INTERNAL MEDICINE to become a great read. Told in the voice of a doctor, explaining how he handled difficult cases during his internship, this book is alternately chilling and poignant. The take away message is this: doctors have self doubt and fatigue just like everyone else, despite the brave front they put on.

Each chapter told the story of one patient, and how Holt learned from their situation. One lesson was patience, one was bravery, one was teamwork, and so on. Brilliant details and situations that everyone can identify with are what makes this such a moving and important read.

As I read about the woman whose oxygen saturation was dipping into the 80’s, yet she kept ripping her O2 mask off due to claustrophobia, I ferverently hoped I would never be ill and lingering in the hospital. The intimate details of how the human body betrays us all is what will stay with you, long after the book is finished. Holt’s writing style is easy to follow, and full of honesty.

Each chapter can be read as a stand alone, and I recommend that–for you will need time to digest the life lessons revealed with each patient’s final outcome. Holt does not hide his fear, his disgust, his anger, and his weariness. He exposes himself –  and the entire medical profession – with stories that cannot help but touch your soul. What makes this book so wonderful is that the stories take place during his internship, where each moment is a learning experience and a doctor’s intuition is “make or break”.  The spin on each chapter would be totally different if it was written under the guise of a man who was completely comfortable with his medical knowledge, with his ability to heal and comfort. Instead, there are questions and internal monologues, which make the doctor not larger than life, but truly human and with foibles.

The book can be graphic at times, so beware. Seasoned readers of the medical genre will enjoy it, as there are some things that I haven’t read about previously. The scenes and maladies are diverse, and there is a chilling story from a mental hospital thrown in for good measure. The only chapter I had a problem with was the last one: a seemingly out of place fable (told  on a regular basis by doctors) about an incident that may or may not have taken place in real life–a rambling and unsatisfying tale told (in this case) by an older doctor in an on call room where others are trying to get some rest.  I’m not sure why the author chose to end with this story, as it took the life out of the other eight chapters that went before.  Other than that, I have nothing but praise for INTERNAL MEDICINE. This should be on the must read shelf for all those about to enter the medical profession.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link asin=”0871408759″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here[/easyazon_link].

 

 

 

 

 

 

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