Our 10 Great Books on Medicine (Subtitled: 10 Books About Medicine That Inspired Me) was put together by Judy Melinek. Special thanks to her for putting this great list of books together!
Judy Melinek, M.D. is a forensic pathologist based in San Francisco, California. She works at the Alameda County Coroner’s Office and is co-author with T.J. Mitchell of the New York Times Bestseller Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies and the Making of a Medical Examiner (http://www.drworkingstiff.com) about her training in forensics. She is an Associate Clinical Professor at UCSF in pathology and blogs about forensic science in the news at http://www.pathologyexpert.blogspot.com
1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Brilliantly researched and touching, this Pulitzer Prize winning book about the cell line that transformed cancer research reminds you that medical research starts from someone’s suffering. Later chapters probe the ethics of taking people’s cells and organs as property and then benefitting from them (with or without their consent).
2. A Not Entirely Benign Procedure: Four Years as a Medical Student by Perri Klass
3. Baby Doctor: A Pediatrician’s Training by Perri Klass
4. Other Women’s Children by Perri Klass
I read all three in medical school. While I still feel that pediatrics is more similar to veterinary medicine than to adult medicine (the patients can’t tell you what is wrong with them and you have to deal with their sometimes overprotective and neurotic “owners”), these books are a fascinating glimpse into the training of a pediatrician – starting from Klass’ medical school training at Harvard Medical School and continuing through her early career. She strongly inspired me to write my own memoir about my forensic training called Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies and the Making of a Medical Examiner.
5. The House of God by Samuel Shem
This book, which is loosely based on Shem’s own internship at Beth Israel Medical Center, is required reading for all medical professionals, mostly because of its irreverence and the quick introduction to medical terms you will not learn in medical school, like “GOMER” and “sieve.”
6. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
I read this book in medical school during a brief fascination with neurology, before I realized that while the patients are fascinating, there is often little that I could do to reverse their course. Dr. Sacks talks about some of his most touching and perplexing cases, and explains how the mind works and how it tricks itself when there is brain damage.
The title is dry, but this book, written in 1999, is quite prescient in predicting that the application of market modeling to our health care system would result in worse outcomes and higher costs. Still relevant in the age of Obamacare.
While Stiff chronicles the ways cadaver and cadaver parts are used in research, Gulp takes the reader through a tour of the alimentary canal. Both are fascinating, detailed, full of great scientific facts and just plain funny.
10. The Puzzle People: Memoirs of a Transplant Surgeon by Thomas E. Starzl M.D.
This book starts with the history of organ transplantation and morphs into a memoir. A must for anyone interested in the science and skill required to master these complicated surgical procedures, and the medicine necessary to prevent rejection.
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