KIRKUS BOOK REVIEW
"Kelly’s memoir explores the idea that medicine not only mends the body, but can also heal the soul.
This charming, touching collection of stories about medical work from a seasoned physician gives insights into the doctor-patient relationship. Kelly was driven to become a doctor by the feeling of security he experienced when attending a medical office as a child. Here, he considers the many lessons learned from his patients. From the shock of encountering his first cadaver in medical school—the instructor reminded the class that the body must be treated like that of a loved one—to the ache of losing a patient, Kelly recounts intimate conversations and situations that mark him as an attentive, compassionate professional. He writes of medical school and his first medical residency and recounts the learning curves, trials, and errors that characterized those years (“Chris was the first person I’d watched die right in front of me….And I felt like a failure for not being able to save him”). Though concerned with the tribulations and idiosyncrasies of the medical occupation specifically, the memoir shows how any profession in which one encounters the misfortunes and tragedies of strangers can drive one to be more empathetic. The book, then, is just as much an exploration of the meaning of life and morality in the face of mortality—a fact we are made all the more conscious of by illness and injury—as it is an exploration of the emotional trajectory of one man’s experience of becoming a doctor. Deeply humane and eminently readable, this book provides a model for mutual understanding between doctors and those they treat. More than this, though, it emphasizes the importance of listening: to the voices, as well as the bodies, of others.
An intelligent, sensitive reflection on the practice of medicine."
SAN FRANCISCO BOOK REVIEW
Star Rating: 5 out of 5
“We live in a world in which medical care seems more automated and less human. Doctors are busy, rushing, trying to care for all of their patients. Dr. Scott Kelly brings a refreshing perspective of medicine in which a doctor takes time to sit and talk with his patients, to really listen to what they have to say. Kelly brings us back to the original focus of medicine: the doctor and the patient together. Kelly begins keeping a journal during his third year of medical school. He learns much from his textbooks, but he learns the most from his patients. An attending physician tells his students, “Listen to your patients, young doctors, and they will tell you what is wrong with them. ”It may seem as if the patients in a waiting room are simply there for a physical examination, but they are waiting, nearly bursting, with a need to communicate what is inside them, not simply organs and tissues, but their passions, fears, and souls. One patient, Bernie, asks Dr. Kelly if he believes in the mind-body connection. This book is the realization of that connection. You cannot treat a patient’s symptoms without treating the whole person.
“I realized I took away much more from the encounter than I had offered. ”When Dr. Kelly is a student, he sees a patient who had cut his leg badly, Walter, a former surgeon who retired due to Parkinson’s disease. Walter asks Dr. Kelly to suture him without Kelly’s attending physician. After getting permission, Dr. Kelly sutures the wound under Walter’s direction. Dr. Kelly and his attending could simply treat Walter’s wound, but instead they give him an opportunity to be a part of his healing, even to direct it. In this way, both Walter and his wound heal together. This book is filled with gems that will not only inspire a doctor in his or her own practice, but will inspire all of us to integrate these lessons into our own lives. For example, his patient, Sean, values being with his children more than his work. “The key is to leave the work at the office…Turn off the television. Put down the newspaper. Get down on the floor, to your children’s level, and absorb yourself in their world…and be present—and not just in body. Give them your mind and your heart.” Dr. Kelly says, “when I follow his advice, I am never disappointed.”
MANHATTAN BOOK REVIEW
Star Rating: 5 out of 5
"The doctor/patient relationship is one of the most intimate. Vulnerable, your health in their hands, you may feel powerless and subordinate. After years of schooling, residency, and intense training, doctors seem to know everything; many of them seem to think they do. Additionally, doctors are more overworked than ever and frequently the patient/doctor relationship fails. But this isn't always the case; every once in a while you meet a physician who takes the time to listen, who treats patients as individuals, personally. It is obvious that Scott Kelly, M.D. is such a physician, sincere when he says he feels honored to serve his patients. Dr. Kelly has written a beautiful memoir marked by humility and wonder as he recalls patients who have had a lasting impact on his life. Far from the pompous, omniscient, and aloof clinician, Kelly is all too aware of his own failings as he struggles, through medical school, residency, stints in the ER, and the tightrope balance between work and family. Although warned to keep his interactions with patients "strictly professional" (i.e., detached), he allows himself to open up to some of them, to listen, and then to learn. This book is his journey through those lessons."And it remains true -- regardless of the latest technologies we actively seek as physicians to improve quality of life and relieve pain -- that the most important tools physicians will ever have are our ears." The writing in this book is sensitive, marked with grace and absolute respect for his patients. Each of the short chapters begins with a personal memory; then Dr. Kelly introduces us to one of his patients. Each taught him an important lesson, on themes as varied as marriage, friendship, faith, happiness, responsibility, perseverance, grief, joy, and love. The book follows Dr. Kelly's experiences mostly chronologically, so you get to experience the highs and lows of his training and residency, as he learns to keep people in the center of practicing medicine, and through his articulate character sketches, you feel that you know his patients too, or that you wish you could have. You meet Joy, whose deep faith steadied Dr. Kelly in the face of man's inhumanity. Harrison reaffirmed the necessity of having a strong sense of purpose, and living true to yourself. Emily's chronic, but privately-endured, pain reminded him to be gentle and compassionate-we don't know the burdens other quietly carry. There are many others, each story told with love and sympathy, neither moralistic or pedantic. These are lessons we all, in our human endeavor, need to learn, and learn again."