Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Physician's First Year

In medical school, Matt McCarthy dreamed of being a different kind of doctor—the sort of mythical, unflappable physician who could reach unreachable patients. But when he almost lost someone his first night on call, he found himself scrambling. Visions of mastery quickly gave way to hopes of simply surviving hospital life, where confidence was hard to come by and no amount of med school training could dispel the terror of facing actual patients.

This funny, candid memoir of McCarthy’s intern year at a New York hospital provides a scorchingly frank look at how doctors are made, taking readers into patients’ rooms and doctors’ conferences to witness a physician's journey from ineptitude to competence. McCarthy's one stroke of luck paired him with a brilliant second-year adviser he called “Baio” (owing to his resemblance to the Charles in Charge star), who proved to be a remarkable teacher with a wicked sense of humor. McCarthy would learn even more from the people he cared for, including a man named Benny, who was living in the hospital for months at a time awaiting a heart transplant. But no teacher could help McCarthy when an accident put his own health at risk, and showed him all too painfully the thin line between doctor and patient. The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly offers a window on to hospital life that dispenses with sanctimony and self-seriousness while emphasizing the black-comic paradox of becoming a doctor: How do you learn to save lives in a job where there is no practice?

The blurb perfectly describes this read since the book is basically a longer version of it. As a reader, you follow Matt as a first-year intern through his rotations learning how to execute medicine also ascertaining which specialty would be the most suitable for him. During this intense time Matt slowly realizes he not only wishes to heal his patients physically but also gain a caring bedside manner finding it more complex than he fathomed. It’s noteworthy to this reader that one bona fide doctor out in the world still cares about their bedside manner. There is no real focus on actual medical procedures, but you do get an idea about certain ones such as resuscitation, I.V., and ports.

The plot has a slow flow to it and in some areas jumps around. Such as, he would be focused on an important aspect like when he stuck himself with a needle, then fade into another subject, but then in another chapter, “oh by the way about the needle stick”,. Having worked in the medical field myself all medical procedures were 98% correct, one was a laugh out loud moment for me because it is so ridiculous, when Matt is running a code on a middle-aged woman “...defibrillator pads were slapped on the woman's chest and back”.  What good would it do on her back? Is someone going to hold her on her side while she is shocked with between 200-1,700 volts? OUCH! One last thing usually only frail people or children get broken ribs when doing compressions not everybody.  

This book is a rare look into one interns psyche. I am sure many readers will find The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly enjoyable. I did not dislike the book, but it is not one of my favorites either. Matt’s story will stay with me. Why you ask? Because Matt did not focus on being some hot-shot doctor trying to get as many patients giving them little respect. His goal is to know his patients as people while giving them high-quality care.  

Thank you “Netgalley” for letting me give an honest review

About this author
Matt McCarthy is an assistant professor of medicine at Cornell and a staff physician at Weill Cornell Medical Center. His work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, Slate, The New England Journal of Medicine, and Deadspin, where he writes the Medspin column.


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