A Review of: The Soul of a Doctor

This is the first time I’ve been afforded the opportunity to review a book that intimately examines the medical profession from the perspective of the medical student. I was given this book two days ago from my friend, M, with her expectation that I would finish it so she could share it with another aspiring medical student.

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Normally, because I don’t have the technical expertise to understand all the jargon that appears in books on medicine, even the ones written for the public, half of the experience is looking up words like NG tube, lupus, Zolpidem, etc. However, the fact that this book is written by medical students, not residents nor attendings, is evident. In fact, one of the best points of this book is its frank, honest interpretations of the rigor of medicine as it is experienced, not as it is lectured.

“Aside from him, we all knew what was about to happen. The barbaric trifles of modern medicine had failed, and now we were forced yet again to yield to, although never to face, our own limitations” 

What’s interesting is that even as medical students, personalities distinctive of a varied class of students shone lucidly through each essay:

From the braggart describing his interaction with patients,

“Even as I couldn’t keep my G protein- coupled receptors straight, I liked to believe that I was, at the very least, Mr. Empathy.” (Joe Wright, 8)

To the African American woman trying to find support in an unfamiliar place,

“Whatever the reason, the sense of isolation I feel from the only people who share my features does nothing to counter my insecurity in this alien environment.” (Antonia Jocelyn Henry,  182)

To the Asian student afraid to perturb the status quo when a respected physician misspeaks,

“When you said all Chinamen looked the same, I found it pretty offensive” (Alex Lam, 188)

All were different, distinct, characters who had contrasting perspectives in their approach to medicine. If anything, the disparate conglomeration of stories residing under brief titles: Communication, Empathy, Easing Suffering and Loss, and Finding a Better Way; could be better organized to orient the reader. Doing so would make the stories more memorable and less generic.

Conclusion: I thoroughly enjoyed the story for their brief reflections of human character, but some accounts students tended to merge together. Of course, the authors could not account for my lack of mental acuity, but if I could describe the takeaway of this novel I would describe it thusly:

“[As] a unique perspective from the elusive medical student, outlining both struggles of the calling of medicine, physical and spiritual. It is an imperative reminder that our doctors, our physicians, are subjected to the same fears, hopes, and dreams, and that they are not superhuman, merely human.”

Thanks to M for letting me borrow the book and to all who will enjoy it, happy reading!

Your friend,

Joseph

 

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