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Summer reads for doctors — or anyone interested in medicine

Alexandra Mazzarisi, AAMC Outreach Specialist, and Stacy Weiner, Senior Staff Writer at the Association of American Medical Colleges recently curated a list of 10 summer reads for doctors or anyone interested in medicine.

From the intricacies of the immune system to the first year of residency, these books cover the compelling, the strange, and the meaningful aspects of medicine — as well as the personal triumphs and tragedies of life as a doctor.

What’s it like to hold a heart in your hand, cut open a skull, scramble to save your husband’s life, face deep-seated sexism or racism in medicine, or make split-second, high-stakes decisions for patients?

Below are a few from the list that you can request from the Health Sciences Library or from Mobius.


Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande, MD, MPH

Performing surgery can be an exhilarating opportunity to heal and an intense gamble with dangerously high stakes, notes Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, a New Yorker columnist and surgeon at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. In Complications, Gawande shares chilling tales of physician errors and complex stories of medical mysteries. He holds up a mirror to both doctors and patients, from the burned-out doctor who regrettably refuses to quit to the boy with a football-sized tumor enveloping his lung. Gawande also explores major issues in medicine, including how hospitals can train young doctors while protecting patients from inexperience. Throughout, he makes clear that, with a closer look, one can see just “how messy, uncertain, and also surprising medicine turns out to be.”

 

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh, CBE, FRCS

Henry Marsh, CBEM FRCS, one of Britain’s foremost neurosurgeons, has spent decades operating on the human brain: the home of all thought, feeling, reason, and memory. In Do No Harm, Marsh reviews some of his greatest triumphs and most painful failures, honestly sharing the stress of surgeries — sometimes lasting 10 hours or more — in which a minor misstep can cause horrible damage. This New York Times bestseller is an intimate look inside the organ Marsh calls “as great as the stars at night.” But it’s also a glimpse into the hearts of the physicians who have the blessing and the burden of tinkering inside it.

 

Letter to a Young Female Physician: Notes from a Medical Life by Suzanne Koven, MD

Watching a new class of interns, Suzanne Koven, MD, a primary care physician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, felt an urge to pen them a missive describing what she wished she had known early in her career. “Even more, I yearned to tell my younger self what I wished I’d known,” she notes in Letter to a Young Female Physician. Koven’s decades of experience include varied forms of sexism, including being told that “no self-respecting man would go to a lady urologist.” But her dedication to medicine is staunch, manifest in her decision to volunteer in a COVID-19 clinic despite concerns about her own health. Koven also honestly reveals her many moments of insecurity as a provider, as a mother, and as a daughter who failed to recognize her mother’s heart disease. From burnout to body image, she shares her personal journey toward a deeper appreciation of her gifts and a greater acceptance of her imperfections.

 

An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System: A Tale in Four Lives by Matt Ritchel

Given the impact of the coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccines on the immune systems of millions of people around the world, few topics may be as compelling or timely as immunology. Written before the pandemic but powerfully describing the intricate mechanism that can heal cuts, fight cancer, and battle viruses, An Elegant Defense weaves together biology, research, and medical history with four patients’ personal experiences — including a childhood friend of author Matt Ritchel. Ritchel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist, takes readers on an intimate exploration of the body’s primary defense mechanism and its ability to heal or hurt.

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Taira Meadowcroft

Taira Meadowcroft is a Health Sciences Librarian at the University of Missouri. She focuses on quality improvement, reference, and marketing for the University of Missouri Libraries.