An anthology of poetry and prose by doctors, nurses, patients, and other authors, A Life in Medicine is divided into four sections: "Physicians Must Be Altruistic"; "Physicians Must Be Knowledgeable"; "Physicians Must Be Skillful"; and "Physicians Must Be Dutiful." Each section begins with the Association of American Medical Colleges' (AAMC) definition of the physician trait examined in that section, and short "explications" precede each individual poem and prose piece, linking them to the section's overall theme.

The anthology has a preface outlining the editors' goals and Robert Coles's introduction, "The Moral Education of Medical Students." These organizational touches make the anthology a classroom-ready text for medical students. The anthology's poems and prose--many of which are stunning--were taken from previously published works and exclude many well-known and often-used pieces. But those selections are readily available elsewhere, and the editors do readers a greater service by introducing many lesser-known, but equally important, poems and essays.


The editors have presented a varied and strong sampling of creative works that examine the physician's role from many points of view. The prose (sometimes small excerpts of longer pieces) and poems will, hopefully, encourage readers and students to go back to the original texts and to seek out individual authors. In a very few cases, selections don't appear in their most recent forms (for example, some pieces taken from an 1995 anthology have since appeared, revised, in authors' full-length collections), but this won't interfere with readers' enjoyment or students' education. It's also good to see the work of nurses and other medical professionals included in this collection; this will help readers and students understand that caring for patients is the work of many hands.


Also see physician Tony Miksanek's review of this anthology in J. Amer. Med. Assoc., Vol. 288, No. 14, October 2002.


The New Press

Place Published

New York




Robert Coles & Randy Testa (with Joseph O'Donnell, Penny Armstrong & M. Brownell Anderson)

Page Count