Showing 11 - 20 of 227 annotations contributed by McEntyre, Marilyn
Summary:The aim of these reflections on uncertainty in medicine is not to discredit evidence-based medicine or to incite suspicion of the careful and caring processes by which most clinicians arrive at the advice they give. Rather it is to change conversations among practitioners and between them and their patients in such a way as to raise everyone’s tolerance for the inevitable ambiguities and uncertainties we live with. If the public were more aware of the basic rules of mathematical probabilities, how statisticians understand the term “significance,” and of how much changes when one new variable is taken into account—when a new medication with multiple possible side-effects is added to the mix, for instance—they might, Hatch argues, be less inclined to insist on specific predictions. He goes on to suggest that there is something to be gained from the challenge of living without the solid ground of assurances. When we recognize the need to make decisions with incomplete information (a condition that seems, after all, to be our common lot) we may refocus on the moment we’re in and see its peculiar possibilities. Changing the conversation requires a critical look at medical education which, Hatch observes, “measures a certain type of knowledge essential to medical practice, but it consequently engenders a conception of medicine best described as overly certain . . . .”
Summary:This memoir of a life in medicine takes the writer from St. Louis to a Navajo reservation to Central America to the east coast and from urban hospitals to ill-equipped rural clinics. It offers a wide range of reflections on encounters with patients that widen and deepen his sense of calling and understanding of what it means to do healing work. He learns to listen to tribal elders, to what children communicate without words, to worried parents, and to his own intuition while calling on all the skills he acquired in a rigorous medical education. Always drawn to writing, Volck takes his writing work (and play) as seriously as his medical practice, and muses on the role of writing in the medical life as he goes along.
Summary:The book offers a detailed account by one of the nation’s leading cancer researchers of developments in chemotherapy over the past several decades, as well as the recent history of surgical and radiation treatments in the “war on cancer”—a term he resisted at first but finally embraced with full understanding of its implications. The narrative touches on many of the writer’s own struggles over economic, political, and moral implications of what a NYT reviewer described as a “take-no-prisoners” approach to cure. He also includes stories about disagreements with other researchers that give some insight into the acrimony that is part of high-stakes science. At the NIH and later as head of the National Cancer Institute, DeVita faced many decisions about distribution of resources, how much to put patients at risk, and whom to include in clinical trials. He provides his own point of view on those controversies frankly. Not much mention is made of the causes of cancer, of nutritional or other complementary approaches, or the environmental factors in the spread of cancer. The strong focus on the book is on the development of chemotherapeutic treatments that have succeeded in raising survival rates, though few current statistics are cited.
Summary:At 16, Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, and is given a dire prognosis. Assuming she has months to live, she undergoes chemotherapy with the support of her lifelong friend, Harvey, whose frank and deepening love she is uncertain about returning. On days when she has enough energy and the nausea abates, she works on a "bucket list" with Harvey's sometimes reluctant help, since the list includes revenge on two classmates who have hurt and humiliated her. When, months into treatment, she goes into unexpected full remission, Alice has to come to terms with the consequences of some of her revenge strategies and reassess the depth of a relationship with Harvey that may last far longer than she thought she had. Given an opportunity to choose life on new terms, she considers those new terms in a more adult way, chastened, focused, and grateful for a chance to make new choices.
Summary:Many are familiar with these stories from the author's practice as a midwife among the urban poor in London's East End in the 1950s. Each piece stands alone as a story about a particular case. Many of them are rich with the drama of emergency interventions, birth in complicated families (most of them poor), home births in squalid conditions, and the efforts of midwives to improve public health services, sanitation, and pre- and post-natal care with limited resources in a city decimated by wartime bombings. As a gallery of the different types of women in the Anglican religious order that housed the midwives and administered their services, and the different types of women who lived, survived, and even thrived in the most depressing part of London, the book provides a fascinating angle on social and medical history and women's studies.
Summary:After eleven minutes underwater at near-freezing temperature, Delaney Maxwell, who appeared dead upon rescue, is revived. Unlikely as her survival seems, the return of apparently normal brain function seems even more unlikely, yet after a few days she is allowed to go home with medications and resume a near-normal life. But after-effects of her trauma linger, the most dramatic of which is that she develops a sixth sense about impending death. She hides this recurrent sensation from her parents, and from her best friend, Decker, who rescued her, but finds that she shares the experience with a hospital aide who, like her, suffered a coma after a car accident that killed his family members. Like her, he senses death in others. Gradually Delaney realizes that “normal” isn’t a place she’s likely to return to, and that Troy, the aide whose life has been a kind of “hell” since his own trauma, is even further from normal than she. Troy seems to feel that it is his mission to help hasten death for those who are dying, to prevent prolonged suffering. The story follows her efforts to stop him, and to communicate with close friends, especially Decker, in spite of the secret she carries about her own altered awareness. When her efforts to save a friend who is dying of a seizure fail, Delaney faces another moment of crisis, compounded by Troy’s own suicidal desire to end his own suffering and hers with it. In the midst of these new traumas a clarity she has lost about what it means to choose life returns to her, and with it the possibility of a loving openness with parents and friends about the mysteries of her own brain and heart.
Summary:When nine-year-old Rob Cole, child of poor 11th-century English farmers, loses his mother, he is consigned to the care of a barber-surgeon who takes him around the countryside, teaching him to juggle, sell potions of questionable value, and assist him in basic medical care that ranges from good practical first-aid to useless ritual. When, eight years later, his mentor dies, Rob takes the wagon, horse, and trappings and embarks on a life-changing journey across Europe to learn real medicine from Avicenna in Persia. Through a Jewish physician practicing in England, he has learned that Avicenna’s school is the only place to learn real medicine and develop the gift he has come to recognize in himself. In addition to skill, he discovers in encounters with patients that he has sharp and accurate intuitions about their conditions, but little learning to enable him to heal them. The journey with a caravan of Jewish merchants involves many trials, including arduous efforts to learn Persian and pass himself off as a Jew, since Christians are treated with hostility in the Muslim lands he is about to enter. Refused at first at Avicenna’s school, he finally receives help from the Shah and becomes a star student. His medical education culminates in travel as far as India, and illegal ventures into the body as he dissects the dead under cover of darkness. Ultimately he marries the daughter of a Scottish merchant he had met but parted with in his outgoing journey, and, fleeing the dangers of war, returns with her and their two sons to the British Isles, where he sets up practice in Scotland.
Summary:This memoir focuses on the various ways in which his being an African American affected Tweedy’s medical education and early practice as a medical resident and later in psychiatry. Raised in the relative safety and privilege of an intact family, he found himself underprepared for some of the blatant forms of personal prejudice and institutional racism he encountered in his first years of medical education at Duke Medical School. One shocking moment he recounts in some detail occurred when a professor, seeing him seated in the lecture hall, assumed he’d come to fix the lights. Other distressing learning moments occur in his work at a clinic serving the rural poor, mostly black patients, where he comes to a new, heightened awareness of the socioeconomic forces that entrap them and how their lives and health are circumscribed and often shortened by those forces. Well into his early years of practice he notices, with more and more awareness of social contexts and political forces, how the color line continues to make a difference in professional life, though in subtler ways. The narrative recounts clearly and judiciously the moments of recognition and decision that have shaped his subsequent medical career.
Summary:Blow’s account of growing up in rural Louisiana, exposed to negligence, sexual molestation, violence, and loss focuses on a child’s strategies of survival first, and then on sexual confusion, social ambition, and discovery of the gifts that led him to his life as a writer for the New York Times. A major theme in the memoir is his learning to claim his bisexuality after years of secrecy and shame. That emergent fact about his identity, along with moving to New York after a life in the rural South required an unusual level of self-reflection and hard, costly choices that challenged norms at every level. His account of learning to assume a leadership role in a college fraternity and deciding to finally leave it behind offers a particularly vivid example of what it takes to resist perpetuating rites of humiliation and conformity designed to curb individuation.
Summary:Since Joy Davidman is known to most readers as the woman C.S. Lewis married late in life and lost to cancer four years after that marriage, it is likely that many readers will pick up Joy Davidman’s letters out of fondness for her husband’s Narnia stories or popular theology. They will quickly find that the letters chronicle a life of considerable interest in itself. Davidman was an award-winning writer herself, a secular Jew and atheist who turned hopefully to communism and then wholeheartedly to Christianity in her later years, though remaining skeptical—and acerbic—about church people. The fact that she remained friends with her first husband after their difficult marriage broke up resulted in many of the letters in the collection, which include material Lewis fans will be glad to see, though it offers little intimate information about their lives except that they were devoted to one another through her painful final years with breast cancer. Her account of that last illness is often matter-of-fact; she writes as though it is one of the less interesting parts of her life, which was full of intellectual pursuits, including editing some of Lewis’s later works, and of practical concerns that included caring for her two boys with whom she emigrated to England from New York.