Dear future doctors:
As a pre-health student, I (among several others) often feel that pre-health courses aren’t adequately preparing me for the long journey to becoming a physician of any sort. Sure, the course load is chock-full of the actual science serving as a foundation for a future in medicine, but it’s hard to say that we actually know what we’re getting ourselves into.
Though experience (shadowing, volunteering, or anything of the sort) around physicians is important, when I read books written by doctors or compilations of stories from residencies, it’s their reflections about certain aspects of their jobs that inspires me to know I’m choosing the right path.
With that said, here’s a list of my top three most special books which every MD wannabe should check out!
On the chaotic experience of a new doctor
Hot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon’s First Years – by Michael J. Collins, MD
Recommended to me by doctor after doctor, this book seemed like one of the most genuine accounts of life during his residency. Collins has a pretty goofy style, but definitely lets you know that, dear pre-meds, it doesn’t get any easier. It’s about the fast-paced learning and on-the-job training, the good and bad of the medical field: how he may have felt like he was suffering, but was a better surgeon for it in the end. Best of all, Collins ties in his home and family life to his long and torturous hours as a resident. The book just seemed to answer so many of my questions about what life is actually like (you know, in contrast to Cristina Yang’s glorious life on Grey’s Anatomy).
For more like this, check out Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation by Sandeep Jauhar, and How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman.
On history and science
A book recommended to me by another student interested in medicine, it does not outline the daily lives of a physician or anything. Rather, Kean tackles the fascinating subject of the strange things your brain can do: from phantom limbs, to our curious natural instinct to respond to simple facial expressions, to the timeless tale of Phineas Gage. By connecting anecdotal stories of brain patients to the constantly changing field of neuroscience, Kean captivated me and just fueled my desire to learn more about the brain.
You can read a sample of the book by clicking the link above.
For another interesting read about the brain, check out The Future of the Mind by Michio Kaku.
On the patient experience
Girl, Interrupted – by Susana Kaysen
This is Susanna Kaysen’s memoir of her experience as a psychiatric patient. It’s not a typical patient experience in most other departments, but having been admitted into a psychiatric hospital for quite a while, it’s a great read from the inside. Kaysen elaborates constantly on her own diagnosis of borderline personality disorder as well as other patients she met. While in the hospital, she has a lot of time to think about her treatment, her illness, and what it means to be sane versus insane. Overall, this was one of the first books that influenced my interest in psychology, what opened the gateway to my obsession of reading the rest of the books on this list.
For more reads on the mind, psychology, and/or being a patient, check out The Quiet Room by Lori Schiller, Quiet by Susan Cain (a personal favorite), and Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel.