Eight Books that Celebrate Doctors for National Doctor’s Day
30th June, 2016
Doctors work day and night, at the cost of their own personal life, to make the life of another better and happier. But they are often taken for granted and not appreciated as much as they should be. Here is a list of books that celebrate doctors and medicine.
The appreciation day for doctors is celebrated on different days in different parts of the world. July 1 is National Doctors Day in India. In US, it is celebrated on March 30. However, no day is not a good day to value their contributions to the world.
Grey’s Anatomy and House MD (my personal favourite solely for the crackling sarcasm) are TV shows that throw light into the life and stress of doctors. The number of books that revolve around medical contributions seem smaller in terms of their readership and reach in spite of their significance. Here are eight books that acknowledge the contributions of doctors. All the books have been linked to their GoodReads page.
1. MY COUNTRY by Abraham Verghese
“My tools – the hammer, the flashlight, the stethoscope – are scattered on his bed. As I pick them up one by one, I realize that all I had to offer Luther was the ritual of the examination, this dance of a Western shaman”
A memoir that uniquely describes the experience of an immigrant physician faced with the devastating medical and personal consequences of treating AIDS in the 1980’s. His life becomes entangled with the lives and suffering of his patients which ultimately costs him his marriage.
2. WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR by Paul Kalanithi
“The tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing. You try to figure out what matters to you, and then you keep figuring it out.”
The 2016 release is the story of either side of the diagnosis table – Paul’s life as a successful intern/doctor and later as a patient diagnosed with cancer at the peak of his career.
You can read a review of the book here.
3. COMA by Robin Cook
Finally some medical fiction- Robin Cook has written so many medical thrillers that it seems unfair to include just one.
Coma is a powerful book on harvesting black-market-organs. Susan Wheeler, a third-year medical student investigates the causes behind two cases of unexpected comas and discovers the oxygen line has been tampered with to induce carbon monoxide poisoning. She discovers the evil nature of the Jefferson Institute, an intensive care facility where patients are suspended from the ceiling and kept alive until they can be harvested for healthy organs.
Here is a list of Robin Cook’s other works. Pick one up if you want to explore medical thrillers.
4. TAKE MY HANDS : The remarkable story of Dr. Mary Verghese by Dorothy Clarke Wilson
This book is a favourite of my mother’s who herself is a doctor. I have read this years ago on her insistence, while at school, and it touched my heart. The book isn’t famous on GoodReads, but it is a good one.
Mary Verghese was among the earliest pioneers of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in India. However, she was injured in a road crash in 1954 that resulted in complete spinal cord injury leaving her a permanent paraplegic. She still continued her professional work and was awarded the Padma Shri in 1972 in recognition of her contributions to the field of medicine.
5. THE MAN WHO MISTOOK HIS WIFE FOR A HAT AND OTHER CLINICAL TALES by Oliver Sacks :
This is a book of the case histories of patients lost in the bizarre neurological disorders. Often the patients are in their own private world and fail to see reality the way it is. There are stories of individuals with mental aberrations, loss of memory of past and those who have unmatchable talents in other spheres such as art or mathematics in spite of being mentally challenged.
In January 2015, Oliver Sacks was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer, and wrote Gratitude which combines his four essays that appeared originally in New York Times.
6. COMPLICATIONS : A SURGEON’S NOTE ON AN IMPERFECT SCIENCE by Atul Gawande
Complications is a book of anecdotes about a surgical resident’s experiences and thoughts on the current health care environment. Gawande divides his stories into three sections: fallibility, mystery, and uncertainty. The fallibility section demonstrates that doctors can make mistakes. The mystery section has stories of illnesses that cannot be explained by medical science. The uncertainty section is about making the right diagnosis or judgment.
Gawande is a surgeon, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and a professor. His latest book is Being Mortal.
7. THE EMPEROR OF MALADIES by Siddhartha Mukherjee
“All cancers are alike but they are alike in a unique way.”
Though not a book about doctors, this Pulitzer winner cannot be ignored on a list that celebrates medicine. This is a biography of one of the illness that has mystified humans for ages – cancer. Often nicknamed a “thriller about cancer” Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths related to cancer. The book makes us salute the individuals who have suffered its wrath as well as those who fought to find a cure.
8. HOW DOCTORS THINK by Jerome Groopman
“I feel that I have to do everything better just to be judged as okay. It is something I wish I could let go of. It’s something that I wish just wasn’t there.”
This book has some extensive interviews with some of the best doctors, and Groopman’s own experiences as a doctor and as a patient. He talks about the mistakes he has made as a doctor and the errors his doctors made in treating his own medical problems.
Have you read any of these? Do you have any books that celebrate doctors and medicine, fiction or non fiction, that you would like to recommend? Feel free to add to the list.