If you are like me, winter break means you finally get to stop reading textbooks and start reading the books you haven’t had the time to read. My journey to and through medical school has been colored by stories about doctors and their patients. These are my recommendations if you are looking for healthcare-related inspiration this winter break!
Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder
Mountains and global health are my jam and this book has both. I listened to Mountains Beyond Mountains on audio while studying abroad in rural southern Chile. As I jogged through town or hopped on the bus to go into the city to search for the elusive but oh so necessary jar of peanut butter, I was inspired by the story of Paul Farmer, a leading global health expert and founder of Partners in Health. I learned about Haitian culture, the AIDS epidemic, and the challenges of delivering healthcare in poor, rural areas. This is a must-read for anyone interested in global health or healthcare delivery in impoverished communities.
When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
Dr. Paul Kalanithi died during my senior year of college. I was a Neuroscience minor and the neuro world was abuzz with talk of the young neurosurgeon/writer’s passing and so I, too, read a short story of his. When I heard his book had been published, I of course downloaded the audiobook, laced up my running shoes, and went out for a jog to have a listen. Highly recommend because if you tear up a little bit, people will think you’re running through the pain, when in reality you’re on the last chapter of a book, which was exactly what you needed to get through your first semester of medical school. Dr. Kalanithi tells his story beautifully, first the story of becoming a doctor and then his story of being a patient. Highly recommend for anyone in the field of medicine (or on their way there!).
Being Mortal, Atul Gawande
At first, it seems weird to be excited about a book about sickness, death, and dying. But, reading Being Mortal, I realized it was more a book about living. Not just living, but living well. Though the focus is on end-of-life care, many of the principles apply to patient and physician interactions throughout the lifespan. Gawande demonstrates how understanding the patient’s perceptions of their health or illness and understanding what is most important to the patient can help doctors make medical decisions that most benefit the patient, a step towards delivery of truly patient-centered care. Being Mortal is very relevant for anyone who is mortal, anyone who loves a mortal, and anyone involved in healthcare for mortals. Warning: reading this book may cause the following symptoms–happily filling out a living will, excitedly encouraging your family to fill out a living will, and discussing death at the dinner table.
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Anne Fadiman
For years I had heard about this book, and I was glad to finally have a reason to read it when my AmeriCorps group chose it for our book club. Our AmeriCorps service term was focused on healthcare in underserved areas and minority populations, so The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down was an obvious choice. It turned out to be a great book club pick, as it brings up a lot of gray area topics. Cultures clash as a family and a hospital try to heal a young Hmong girl. Was anyone in the wrong here or were they all doing the best they could under the circumstances? How can we as aspiring healthcare providers improve care for people of other cultures and languages? This book will help you learn to appreciate the stories beneath the surface and see others in a new light.
I grew up in Charleston, SC and graduated from the College of Charleston in 2015 with a degree in Biology, Health, and Neurosciences. As an undergraduate, I worked in a neuroscience lab, travelled to South America as much as possible, and volunteered at free clinics. Back in Greenville for my medical education, on the same hospital campus where I was born, I’m excited to be a part of the USCSOMG class of 2020!
Copyright 2014 USC School of Medicine Greenville