"Short White Coat: Lessons from Patients on Becoming a Doctor" by James A. Feinstein MD
Copyright Date: 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4401-7513-8 (soft cover)
"Most people will, at some point or another, either find themselves dressed in a tiny hospital gown or staring at someone else dressed in a tiny hospital gown. Whether from the perspective of a patient, a family member, or a medical professional, we all have a significant stake in the process of medical education. While numerous memoirs recount physicians' grueling experiences during residency, few focus on the even more formative portion of medical training: the third year of medical school: the clinical year. "Short White Coat..." is the disarmingly honest, yet endearing and sometimes funny account of a medical student's humbling initiation into the world of patient care.
Written during his third year of medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, James Feinstein's Short White Coat uses a series of engaging narrative essays to illustrate the universal life lessons that his very first patients teach him...Along the way, he learns from his own mistakes before discovering the answer to the question that plagues every medical student: "Do I have what it takes to become a doctor?"
"James A. Feinstein MD survived medical school and is thriving as a practicing pediatrician."
Just two weeks ago, my mother called to say that she was upset. Her face had developed a horrible, sudden case of rosaceae which traveled up into her hair, causing it to fall out. This is a woman who has kept her flawless complexion looking like a 20 year old's, and her thick, wavy hair in the latest styles as long as I can remember. She's now 80 yrs. old and looks 60.
Off she went to a newly recommended doctor who came in, looked at her face (no eye contact), pronounced her problem rosaceae, plucked a few hair strands out of her crown and said, "Yep, that's what happens when you get old. You lose your hair." To which my mother replies, "I'm not really that old." [This she tells me in a choked voice, so I know it's hurt her spirit.] Then he writes her a `script, tosses it to her, and he's gone.
Mom called not to complain about the rosaceae, but to tell me she misses her old doctor, Dr. Marks, who used to look her in the eyes and ask her what was the matter. The one who held her hand and listened before he examined her, respectfully. Dr. Marks, who smiled kindly and told her she'd be fine, and who waved good-bye. He always made her feel nearly cured. He died two years ago.
Short White Coat..." is, in part the culmination of life lessons in story form of how the latter type of doctor learns and develops that which is inherent in his nature, his heart and his soul. While Dr. Feinstein suggests it's his patients who teach him lessons on doctoring, I would argue that it could only be possible if the student had a teachable heart. This young man does, and on each page of his book it glowingly comes in such an unassuming manner that one can only be humbled in the reading. This is not a braggart's self-congratulatory thesis.
James Feinstein's writing is crisp, clean and engaging. There is a joy and hopefulness to his author's voice. `though, when he is despondent, we feel it; and when he's learned an enduring truth; we do, too. This is the sign of a gifted communicator, a worthy author~one we can profit from reading. With each lesson enabled by patients, Dr. Feinstein invites us along his journey of epiphanies. Although some lessons seem at first to be ones we recognize, he sheds new light on them; a fresh perspective that causes us to reach deeper and look again.
The story of Jack and Hannah, a lower middle-class, elderly couple who lived humbly and kept a kitchen garden, is just such a story that touched me profoundly. When my young husband was dying of cancer, I often concerned myself with whether our house was neat and clean enough for visitors; whether I'd say and do the right things to make them comfortable. I always swore to and did keep my sweet husband informed to the letter about his condition and "what was going on." This story taught me a lesson about that and more. It taught me new lessons about dying and being the caretaker that I had missed.
James Feinstein tells of his teacher, Dr. Freedman, a private practitioner, and himself arriving at the couple's home only to be greeted like visiting royalty. Jack happily leads them through a hoarder's delight of a garage, down a foot-worn carpeted, cramped hallway to Hannah's and his bedroom. All the while, Jack is buoyantly offering homegrown veggies, other refreshments, and boisterous conversation. Hannah, on the other hand, is gray-skinned, deplete of energy and uncommunicative~dying.
Young Dr. Feinstein watches as Jack lightly touches Hannah's shoulder in an unexpectedly gentle and love-filled manner. She visibly melts into a peaceful restfulness. As the doctors go with Jack to his kitchen, attempting to tell him to make preparations since Hannah's days are few, Jack continuously cuts Dr. Freedman off with hearty tales of recipes. He refuses to listen or allow the doctor to speak. Rather, as he leads them back through the garage, Jack offers Dr. Freedman two gifts of such insurmountable value their impact causes James Feinstein to understand there was `nothng else he (I) wanted to do more' than to be a doctor. So simple a story, so profound a confirming message.
Dr. James A. Feinstein shares with us a beautiful collection of memories and life lessons. The pages seem to melt away as they are read. This will be one of the most memorable books you'll read in 2011. It's a book to gift your doctor with this year. It's a book your loved ones and friends will thank you for.
Winner of the Reader Views: "Reviewer's Choice Award of 2010"
I highly recommend this book to everyone of all ages.
*Note: Do you have any doctor stories to share with us??? Comment below, and I'll post them on my blog. Thanks!
PS: I hope someone tells Dr. Feinstein I wish him well, and wish he were my doctor.