A Doctor's Journey by Fredric A. Mendelsohn, MD

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Title: A Doctor's Journey
Author: Fredric A. Mendelsohn, MD
Genre: Medical memoir
Publisher: Outskirts Press, 2011
Source: Received from author for review
Read for: Review

Dr. Mendelsohn is a neurologist, and A Doctor's Journey is a smattering of his experiences, from the tragic and cautionary to touching and heart-warming.

I have a soft spot for medical memoirs. I think many of us as readers enjoy memoirs as a guilty pleasure. They aren't always perfectly constructed, but they usually tell an interesting story, and they are often told by ordinary people -- ordinary people with a story to tell. I enjoy medical memoirs in particular because they deal with a world I have spent the last five years studying in abstract, and a world in which I hope to be employed nine months from now (because I have nine months left of school, not because I have something germinating inside me for the next nine months. Using that specific division of time tends to arouse questions). Memoirs cast light on the human condition in a way that literature occasionally fails to do, because memoirs are real things that have actually happened.

This slim volume was definitely an intriguing read. As a neurologist, Dr. Mendelsohn has the opportunity to deal with some of the more bizarre cases of the medical world. He describes patients in comas, patients with head trauma, patients with epilepsy, patients with severe anger management problems blaming their ailments on physiology rather than on lack of control. One aspect that I found particularly interesting in Dr. Mendelsohn's stories was the fact that he chose to focus on the human interaction rather than the progression of the diseases he treated. He talks about a patient whose friend ran over him with a boat, and the anger between them. He talks about a family patiently waiting for a daughter to come out of a nine-month coma. He talks about an angry patient destroying his office and having to call the police to remove him from the premises. He also goes into other aspects of the medical world, such as the illicit relationship between a cocky physician and a pretty nurse, and the way music has always been a part of both his and his father's lives. He reminisces about medical school. This varied collection made for an interesting read with quite a bit of variety.

While Dr. Mendelsohn's stories were very interesting, they did seem to be lacking some cohesive factor. Many of the stories ended abruptly, leaving me uncertain as to what exactly the author was trying to illustrate. A few of the stories ended right in the middle of a tragic occurrence, and I felt as if I didn't have any closure. I suppose for doctors, perhaps interactions are like this on a regular basis. You spend time with a patient, and if the patient dies, you don't. They are off your patient list and out of your life. However, I would have liked to see some tying up of loose ends, instead of just ending with the anger or the pain or the awkward situation. I felt as if many of the stories were cut off and needed a neat ending.

Overall, however, this was an interesting read. It isn't perfect and may not interest those who don't generally read medical memoirs. However, for fans of the genre, this one may be worth picking up.

3 stars

Warnings: 1 or 2 f-words, one scene of sensuality, some blood and guts

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