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.


The great strength of this collection is the variety of voices, perspectives, and situations represented. Variegated as it is, it represents the medical profession from many angles, some quite surprising. Not only are expected moments of ethical dilemma, personal heartbreak, delight in recovery or learning represented, but also behind-the-scenes issues in institutional life like the impact of budget cuts or the effects of a tyrannical supervisor.

The writing varies, but most of the narratives are well-told, lively, and compelling. A very useful text that can be enjoyed by both medical professionals and anyone who has been a patient. A contribution to "cross-cultural" understanding between doctors and those they serve.


Ohio: Kent State Univ. Press

Place Published

Kent, Ohio




Carol Donley & Martin Kohn

Page Count