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Great Summer Reads for Aspiring Physicians, Vol. 6

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Check out our list of 10 powerful reads for your next beach trip or study break. 

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Woman reading a book

With summer just around the corner, it’s time for the AAMC’s annual list of book recommendations for any student interested in pursuing a career in medicine. We narrowed this summer’s list down to 10 powerful reads that we think you’ll want to pack for your next beach trip or pick up when taking a break from studying or writing secondary applications. Book descriptions by Amazon. 

1.    The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician's First Year by Matt McCarthy, MD
“This funny, candid memoir of McCarthy’s intern year at a New York hospital provides a scorchingly frank look at how doctors are made, taking readers into patients’ rooms and doctors’ conferences to witness a physician's journey from ineptitude to competence. McCarthy's one stroke of luck paired him with a brilliant second-year advisor he called “Baio” (owing to his resemblance to the “Charles in Charge” star), who proved to be a remarkable teacher with a wicked sense of humor. McCarthy would learn even more from the people he cared for, including a man named Benny, who was living in the hospital for months at a time awaiting a heart transplant. But no teacher could help McCarthy when an accident put his own health at risk and showed him all too painfully the thin line between doctor and patient.”

2.    Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
“For 2,000 years, cadavers — some willingly, some unwittingly — have been involved in science's boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem.”

3.    Womb With a View: Tales from the Delivery, Emergency and Operating Rooms by Rebecca Levy-Gantt, DO
“Womb With A View offers a journey through medical training and practice in the life of an obstetrician and gynecologist. It singles out some of the most poignant and touching chapters that are both extraordinary and at the same time ordinary in the world of reproductive medicine.”

4.    Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh, MD
“If you believe that brain surgery is a precise and exquisite craft practiced by calm and detached doctors, this gripping, brutally honest account will make you think again. With astonishing compassion and candor, Marsh reveals the fierce joy of operating, the profoundly moving triumphs, the harrowing disasters, the haunting regrets, and the moments of black humor that characterize a brain surgeon's life.”

5.    An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System: A Tale in Four Lives by Matt Ritchel
“An Elegant Defense effortlessly guides readers on a scientific detective tale winding from the Black Plague to twentieth-century breakthroughs in vaccination and antibiotics, to today’s laboratories that are revolutionizing immunology — perhaps the most extraordinary and consequential medical story of our time. Drawing on extensive new interviews with dozens of world-renowned scientists, Richtel has produced a landmark book, equally an investigation into the deepest riddles of survival and a profoundly human tale that is movingly brought to life through the eyes of his four main characters, each of whom illuminates an essential facet of our ‘elegant defense.””

6.    Hundreds of Interlaced Fingers: A Kidney Doctor's Search for the Perfect Match by Vanessa Grubbs, MD
“A young, hopeful doctor's memoir — an unforgettable love story and an informative journey into the world of medicine and kidney transplantation that ultimately asks: What does it mean to let go of something that you love, even if it is life itself? Shaped by Vanessa's remarkable experiences as a doctor, a woman of color, a mother, and a kidney donor, Hundreds of Interlaced Fingers is a love story, an exposé, and a clarion call for us all to consider the dualities of both loving and letting go.”

7.    Open Heart: A Cardiac Surgeon's Stories of Life and Death on the Operating Table by Stephen Westaby, MD
“When Stephen Westaby witnessed a patient die on the table during open-heart surgery for the first time, he was struck by the quiet, determined way the surgeons walked away. As he soon understood, this detachment is a crucial survival strategy in a profession where death is only a heartbeat away. In Open Heart, Westaby reflects on over 11,000 surgeries, showing us why the procedures have never become routine and will never be.”

8.    The First Cell: And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last by Azra Raza, MD 
“In The First Cell, Azra Raza offers a searing account of how both medicine and our society (mis)treats cancer, how we can do better, and why we must. A lyrical journey from hope to despair and back again, The First Cell explores cancer from every angle: medical, scientific, cultural, and personal. Indeed, Raza describes how she bore the terrible burden of being her own husband's oncologist as he succumbed to leukemia. Like Paul Kalanithi’s book entitled When Breath Becomes Air, The First Cell is no ordinary book of medicine, but a book of wisdom and grace by an author who has devoted her life to making the unbearable easier to bear.”

9.    Letter to a Young Female Physician: Notes from a Medical Life by Suzanne Koven, MD
“In 2017, Dr. Suzanne Koven published an essay describing the challenges faced by female physicians, including her own personal struggle with "imposter syndrome" ― a long-held secret belief that she was not smart enough or good enough to be a “real” doctor. Accessed by thousands of readers around the world, Koven’s Letter to a Young Female Physician has evolved into a deeply felt reflection on her career in medicine.”

10.    Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande, MD, MPH
“Atul Gawande offers an unflinching view from the scalpel's edge, where science is ambiguous, information is limited, the stakes are high, yet decisions must be made. In dramatic and revealing stories of patients and doctors, he explores how deadly mistakes occur and why good surgeons go bad. He also shows us what happens when medicine comes up against the inexplicable: an architect with incapacitating back pain for which there is no physical cause; a young woman with nausea that won't go away; a television newscaster whose blushing is so severe that she cannot do her job. Gawande offers a richly detailed portrait of the people and the science, even as he tackles the paradoxes and imperfections inherent in caring for human lives.”
 

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