Writer, MD: contemporary fiction and nonfiction by doctors

09.04.2012
Cover design for book by and about doctors

The art of medicine

With all the toxicity surrounding health care reform, it is easy to lose sight of the men and women to whom we entrust our care. Writer, MD is a well-timed antidote, bringing us into the hearts, minds and lives of practitioners in this lovely collection of contemporary fiction and nonfiction by doctors. Many of the contributors are well known: Atul Gawande (who reveals his harrowing experiences as a surgical intern); Abraham Verghese (mourning the lost art of the physical exam) and Oliver Sacks (on a World War II veteran with an extreme case of amnesia). My favorite, though, was “Resurrectionist,” by Pauline Chen, a medical student’s tribute to her first cadaver along with a brief but informative history of dissection. (The title refers to grave robbers, who were the earliest procurers of bodies for scientific use.) It is an intimate initiation for student and reader of what it means to become a doctor–the science, the skill and essential humanity of medicine. Physician-writers are nothing new. Anton Chekhov, for example, called literature his mistress and medicine, his wife. This little book covers all the big themes: humor, sorrow, fear, joy, exhaustion, or what Jerome Groopman, who wrote the preface, calls the “science and the soul.”

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