This amusingly told narrative by a surgeon/author begins by describing how "wrong-headed [it is] to think of total submersion in the study and practice of medicine." He sets aside time to read at his neighborhood library, where he befriends six elderly, indigent "regulars." In spite of himself, the physician will out. His powers of medical observation and empathetic character lead him to perform a most menial task: cutting the overgrown toenails of these severely arthritic people in order to alleviate their pain.


For an interesting discussion of Selzer’s approach to medicine, people, and writing, see Louis Borgenicht’s "Richard Selzer and the Problem of Detached Concern" (Ann. Intern. Med., 100: 923-934, 1984).

Primary Source

Letters to a Young Doctor


Simon & Schuster

Place Published

New York



Page Count