Showing 1 - 2 of 2 annotations associated with Young, Audrey
- Schilling, Carol
Summary:As Audrey Young describes her process of becoming a compassionate internist in a besieged public hospital, she simultaneously argues for turning the hospital's patient care and financial practices into a model for improving health care in America. Young, a compelling storyteller, first entered Seattle's Harborview Medical Center in 1996 as a third-year medical student on trauma surgery service. She completed a residency there in general internal medicine and stayed on as an attending for six more years. She stayed, she tells us, because she met physicians "committed to a vision of equality" who were "the sort of people I hoped to become" (xiii). She also "fell in love" with "the story of a unique place" (xiii). Young's stories of that often chaotic place, where ambulances regularly transport homeless, indigent, addicted, and mentally ill refugees from neighboring private hospitals, emphasizes the ways the Harborview staff manages to treat patients with dignity and to choose an ethic of hope in the face of dire circumstances.
We quickly learn that at Harborview compassion is expressed concretely as actions toward patients. Michael Copass, known as "the mostly benign dictator of emergency operations," pronounced the core of these actions in what came to be known as his commandments: "1. Work hard. 2. Be polite. 3. Treat the patient graciously, even if he is not the president of the United States" (9). Politeness always meant asking "'How may I help you, sir?'" regardless of the patient's social status or addiction history. Politeness sometimes meant finding a way to reach the patient who regularly threatened the staff. Young finds ways and creates a therapeutic bond. But working hard and treating patients considerately also took measurable forms, such as not allowing emergency patients to wait. Facing a flurry of admissions, the Emergency Department (ED) staff interpreted a young Ethiopian's complaints about pain as a drug addict's ploy. Because Young glanced at the admissions board and noticed that he remained unattended for three hours--far longer than Copass could tolerate--she jumped into action. He suffered, she discovered, from a collapsed lung.
However, Young moves her narrative beyond individual doctor and patient encounters and into the larger, interrelated social and financial structures in which medicine is practiced. For instance, she links meager funding for drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs with expensive ED admissions and rising healthcare costs. In the chapter "Bunks for Drunks," Young visits an experimental residence that houses homeless addicts in furnished studios with private baths and cooking appliances. Although residents can keep alcohol in their rooms and elect not to participate in the home's social services, including counseling, alcohol consumption and ED admissions decrease. While the chapter points out the cost savings of such arrangements, Young further urges readers to value the dignity residents experience there.
In "Black Friday," Young details the hospital's tense, but ingenious responses to a Mass Casualty Incident, the result of carbon monoxide poisoning, which almost depleted the resources of all of Seattle's medical centers. The final chapter, "A Vision," outlines how Harborview has tried to succeed as both a charitable institution and a business, as a provider of both indigent and luxury care, with the hope that others will follow the medical center's example. However, in presenting her recommendations for "health justice," Audrey Young also makes the case that "seemingly ordinary citizens" are implicated in healthcare reform (231). To enable their informed participation in making changes, Young includes an appendix with further readings and another that lists strategies for effecting reform.
- Coulehan, Jack
This collection of stories describes "a medical student's journey" (the subtitle) through the difficult terrain of clinical education. In Audrey Young's case, this is also a geographical odyssey from Seattle to Swaziland to Pocatello, Idaho, as she completes her University of Washington clinical rotations and electives. In one sense the main characters of these narratives are the patients the author encounters in clinics and hospitals. As she writes in the Preface, "Patients teach things that the wisest and most revered physicians cannot, and their lessons are in this book."
In another sense, of course, Dr. Young herself is the central character of these stories; this is an account of her journey into doctoring. The author first takes us to Bethel, a Yupik Eskimo town on the Bering seacoast of Alaska, where she had her initiation into clinical experiences in the form of a summer preceptorship. There she learns that patients are far different from textbook examples, as she confronts the social and cultural factors that influence illness and its amenability to treatment. We follow the author to assignments throughout the WWAMI network. WWAMI is the University of Washington's decentralized clinical training program (Wyoming, Washington, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho).
In Spokane she delivers a baby for the first time, supervised by an opera-loving attending physician. In Pocatello she takes care of her first critically ill neonate. In Missoula her life becomes "one of resigned solitude" in her internal medicine clerkship, where she experiences sleep deprivation and experiences sunlight only "through dusty windows."
During her fourth year, the author finds herself treating desperately ill AIDS patients without a supervising physician (he had gone to Zaire for a funeral and might be back the following week) and also without anti-retroviral drugs. However, it is in Swaziland that she learns the deep power and dignity of medicine, as exemplified by a patient who invites her to a dinner in her honor that requires killing one of his precious chickens.