Showing 101 - 110 of 299 annotations tagged with the keyword "Surgery"

Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Dr. Pauline Chen is a transplant surgeon and hence highly trained in the surgical care of desperately ill patients. She found, however, that although she had intensive and first rate training, time and again the message she received from her mentors and peers encouraged a distance from frank discussions about dying with patients who were clearly dying. Dr. Chen successfully suppressed her urges to reflect on the meaning of illness and death. Years into her training, she finally witnessed an attending surgeon stay with a patient and the patient's wife until the patient passed away. The widow sent a thank you note to Dr. Chen for allowing a "dignified and peaceful death." (p. 101) Chen notes that observing her attending stand with the patient during death changed her profoundly: "...from that moment on, I would believe that I could do something more than cure. This narrative, then, is my acknowledgment to him." (p. 101)

Final Exam chronicles Chen's journey from medical student to attending surgeon and examines her experiences with death and serious illness - of patients, family members, friends. The memoir contains three parts: Principles, Practice, and Reappraisal - each with three chapters. The book is chronologically arranged, beginning with anatomy dissection at the start of medical school and ending with Chen as an attending arranging for hospice, thus honoring a patient's desire to die at home rather than in hospital. Chen skillfully weaves her stories around commentary on the social, cultural and philosophical issues surrounding death and the medical response to death. An introduction and epilogue bookend the text and 46 pages of extensive notes and bibliography complete the book.

Although Chen claims to have slowly and painfully awakened to the fact that patient needs extend well beyond good technical care, in fact one sees Chen emerge as a caring physician even from her initial patient contacts in medical school. Chen speaks more to her role as an Asian-American than to being a woman in a male-dominated field, but she clearly has what it takes to succeed in this extremely competitive field, including a good dose of compulsiveness and an incredible work ethic.

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Annotated by:
Mathiasen, Helle

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Video

Summary:

This 2002 DVD, copyrighted by WHYY in Philadelphia and narrated by Blythe Danner, consists of a one-hour documentary about Philadelphia-born painter, photographer, and sculptor Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) and eight short films about different facets of his life and work. Photographs by and of Eakins, his paintings, letters, and sketches are interspersed with commentary by his biographer Elizabeth Johns, and by art historians and historians. The DVD describes Eakins’s training, art production, and aspects of his personal life.

Eakins was already an excellent draftsman, trained at Central High School in Philadelphia, but he first learned to paint during the three-plus years he spent in Paris at École des Beaux Arts. The practice there was to paint from live, nude models instead of from plaster casts, as was customary in Philadelphia. After Paris, he traveled to Spain where he visited Madrid and Seville. He developed great admiration for Goya, Ribera, and Velazquez. His letters home indicate how much he missed his family, yet also how seriously he worked on his art.

Returning to Philadelphia, Eakins set up his studio in his family's home on Mt. Vernon Street. He spent most of the rest of his life in his childhood home. Eakins painted portraits of athletes, for example, rowers and boxers. He chose sitters skilled in the arts, in medicine, business and industry, and painted family members. He always portrayed people and scenery he knew well, and athletes skilled in sports he himself loved. An excellent draftsman and highly trained painter, Eakins became a popular instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts had an institute policy that prohibited the use of live, nude models, especially in mixed classes, but Eakins rebelled against these rules by asking his students to model nude in the classroom and outside. Eakins also modeled in the nude himself. He photographed and painted his students in the nude. He believed that artists must study human anatomy through anatomy lectures, dissection, and observation of the body in motion. He assigned such tasks to his American students. Because of his rebellion against Academy rules, he was forced to resign.

Eakins finished his most ambitious painting, The Gross Clinic (annotated in this database) when he was 31 years old. The work, now recognized as an American masterpiece, was poorly received by his contemporaries. Much of his later production was portraits of people he asked to sit for him, including Walt Whitman. He painted a number of cowboy pictures during his stay at a North Dakota ranch where he was recuperating from depression. He also painted twenty-five portraits of Philadelphia physicians.

The last photo of Eakins in his studio, featured in the documentary, shows him seated with his back to the viewer and surrounded by the many pictures he had been unable to sell or which were rejected by his sitters. Eakins is now recognized as a major American artist, particularly in portraiture.

 

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

George Stewart had always loved his best friend's wife, Catherine. After her doctor husband, Jerome Martel, is presumed to have died in a Nazi prison camp, George and Catherine marry, respectful of Martel's memory and mindful of her chronic illness. The central crisis of the story, which is introduced in the first chapter, is the surprising return of Martel a decade after his death.

Martel still burns with the passion for social justice that took him to war in Europe. The long story of their lives is narrated by George through a series of flashbacks and reminiscences, in which Catherine's illness is ever present.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Canadian surgeon Norman Bethune, 1890-1939, (Donald Sutherland) journeys 1500 miles into China to reach Mao Zedong's eighth route army in the Wu Tai mountains where he will build hospitals, provide care, and train medics. Flashbacks narrate the earlier events of his life: a bout with tuberculosis at the Trudeau sanatorium; the self-administration of an experimental pneumothorax; the invention of operative instruments; his fascination with socialism; a journey into medical Russia; and the founding of a mobile plasma transfusion unit in war-torn Spain.

Bethune twice married and twice divorced his wife, Frances (Helen Mirren) who chooses abortion over child-rearing in her unstable marriage. By 1939, Bethune had been dismissed from his Montreal Hospital for taking unconventional risks and from his volunteer position in Spain for his chronic problems of drinking and womanizing. As his friend states: "China was all that was left." Even there, Bethune confidently ignores the advice of Chinese officials, until heavy casualties make him realize his mistake and lead him to a spectacular apology. The film ends with his much-lamented death from an infected scalpel wound.

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Everyman

Roth, Philip

Last Updated: Jan-05-2007
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This short novel is the story of one man’s death, starting with his interment at the cemetery, where his daughter and older brother offer reminiscences over the coffin; and then dwelling on aspects of his life within which the seeds of death germinated and grew. The man himself is unnamed—Everyman—and his death is no different than any other. At the same time, this death is different because the dead person’s narrative voice remains behind to tell the story.

As a young boy in his father’s jewelry store, he fiddles around in a drawer of old broken watches that his father has accepted as trade-ins. The boy is a dreamer, an artist. But he goes into the advertising business to earn a living, rather than pursuing his first love, painting. He marries and divorces three times, becomes alienated from his sons by the first marriage, and winds up spending his relatively affluent, but bleak, retirement years in a New Jersey condo, maintaining at least some contact with his daughter Nancy. Meanwhile, his brother Howie becomes a fantastically successful international businessman still married to his wife of 45 years and close to his loving family.

Everyman’s brushes with death begin when he is still a child admitted to the hospital for a hernia repair and his roommate dies during the night. As a relatively young man, he experiences a close call when he collapses and is found to have a burst appendix and peritonitis. Later, he attends his father’s Orthodox Jewish funeral, where the mourners actively bury the coffin. In 1989 he experiences a massive heart attack, followed by coronary bypass surgery. In 1998 he is admitted for renal artery angioplasty. The next year he requires left carotid artery surgery. The next, placement of coronary artery stents. The next, insertion of a permanent defibrillator. Finally, he learns that the right carotid artery has now become obstructed. During the subsequent surgery, he dies: “He was no more, freed from being, entering into nowhere without even knowing it. Just as he’d feared from the start.” (p. 182)

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Down from Troy

Selzer, Richard

Last Updated: Jan-05-2007
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Richard Selzer’s memoir is subtitled “A Doctor Comes of Age.” The book is structured around childhood memories, interspersed with stories from more recent times. Selzer’s father, a general practitioner in Troy, New York, serves as the focal point for most of his early memories--a commanding figure of warmth and goodness in his son’s life: “If I have failed to describe father… it is because none of his features did him justice. I should have had to mention wings in order to do that.” (p. 152)

While his father brought science into Selzer’s life, his mother represented the world of art. She was an amateur singer with a “small pure soprano voice” (p. 15), as well as being the doctor’s wife. After the doctor’s death from a massive heart attack when Selzer was 12 years old, his mother had numerous suitors, at least some of whom she eventually married. When he went to college, she began a life-long practice of writing her younger son (Selzer has an older brother William) weekly letters, including such advice as “Rise and flee the reeling faun,” “You do not take enough chances” and “You must learn to be absurd.” (p.227)

Toward the end of Down from Troy, Selzer writes of his parents, “Of all the satisfactions of my life, the greatest is that I have at last fulfilled each of their ambitions.” (p. 251) This is in reference to his having practiced both surgery and writing. He goes on to enumerate the many unexpected similarities between the two professions. The book ends with a narrative that brings together narrative and medicine, the story of a retired surgeon who reaches out to help a young man dying of AIDS.

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Annotated by:
Kennedy, Meegan

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: History

Summary:

Winter surveys the rise and fall of mesmerism in Victorian Britain, from animal magnetism to hypnotism, including electrobiology (a form of group hysteria), table-turning, and other fads. The book offers rich detail about the different stages of the use of mesmerism in medicine: its initial appearance in staged experiments; its uncertain status and the struggle to locate the boundary demarcating alternative medicines; its performance by professional medical men as well as travelers and quacks; its importance in the development of anesthesia; and its role in prompting skeptical scientists to consider the possibility of mental reflexes as one way to explain away mesmeric phenomena.

Winter argues that mesmerism was not "illegitimate" so much as it brought "legitimacy" itself - of medical authority, of evidence, of knowledge -- into question. Thus, she argues, mesmerism crucially inspired many of the considerable changes in nineteenth-century medicine as well as the reorganization of science and the educational reforms of the later nineteenth century. The book also discusses mesmerism as a form of religion, as a conduit for spiritualism and communication with the dead, as a catalyst in orchestral conducting, and as a model for liberal political consensus.

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Get a Life

Gordimer, Nadine

Last Updated: Jan-02-2007
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Untouchable. Paul Bannerman considers himself a modern day leper. Diagnosed with papillary carcinoma of the thyroid at the age of 35, the white ecologist in South Africa undergoes surgery to remove the malignant thyroid gland. Four week later, he is treated with radioactive iodine to obliterate any residual cancerous cells. Paul will remain radioactive for 16 days and poses a risk to anyone in contact with him. He must be quarantined. His parents, Adrian and Lyndsay, offer to care for him in their home so that Paul will not expose his wife, Berenice (Benni), and 3-year-old son, Nickie to potentially harmful radioactivity. While at his parent’s house, Paul is isolated. Nothing of Paul’s is allowed to mingle with that of others. He spends considerable time in the garden reflecting on his life.

As Paul recovers, his parent’s marriage unravels. His mother has had a previous affair. Now his father has a fling of his own (with the tour guide) during a trip to Mexico. His dad never returns home and dies of heart failure in Norway. Paul’s mother adopts an HIV-positive 3-year-old black girl.

Benni wants to have another child, but Paul is worried. Are his radioactive sperm still capable of fertilization, and if so, will the child be somehow deformed or mutilated? Eventually conception occurs, and the baby is healthy. Paul’s most recent scan shows no signs of recurrent cancer. On the professional front, Paul gets additional good news. The environmental and conservation organization he works for has been successful in opposing and temporarily halting a mining project in the sand dunes and the development of a pebble-bed nuclear reactor. Lately, most things associated with Paul are starting to glow.        

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The Spanish Doctor

Cohen, Matt

Last Updated: Dec-14-2006
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The story of Avram Halevi of Toledo, a late 14th-century Jewish doctor forced to convert to Christianity at the age of ten. He becomes a physician and surgeon in Montpellier and returns to the poor Jewish sector of his native city to live a dangerous professional life, serving the Christian rich. His relationship with the beautiful, ambitious Gabriela founders as his people are scattered in yet another attack by misguided Christian zealots.

His cousin, Antonio, is cruelly tortured and Halevi euthanizes him in prison. Escaping Toledo, he returns to Montpellier where he finds friends, a wife, a family, and eventually a professorship--but religious rivalry again intervenes through the brutality of a worldly cardinal. Try as he might to remain above the fray of religious and political struggles, Halevi is stripped of all he holds dear and dragged into controversy again because he senses what is morally right.

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Summary:

This fine collection of short memoirs and stories by doctors offers a variety of narratives about memorable moments in medical education and practice that raise and explore practical and ethical issues in medicine. An explicit aim of the editors was to focus on some of the rewards in medical life as well as the struggles it entails--those often being inseparable.

Starting with a section on medicine and poetry which includes memories of William Carlos Williams by two of his well-known students, Robert Coles and John Stone, and a reflection on illness in poetry by Rafael Campo, the collection is then divided into two major sections: "Grand Perspectives" and "Intimate Experiences." The former includes narratives that show the development of practices, conflicts, or learning over time spent in hospitals and clinics, observing the careers of elders in the profession or the parade of patients whose expectations and needs stretch the physician's creative resources. Several, including Perri Klass and David Hilfiker write about particular patients whose cases became personal landmarks.

In the latter section, stories focus on single cases or incidents in the lives of doctors, some humorous, some tragic, some bemusing, all attesting to the chronic ambiguities of the work of healing and to the very human tensions that arise in institutions that both enable and inhibit the compassion all good doctors want to exercise.

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