A medical student’s thoughtful and revealing chronicle of growing into the white coat of a doctor under Harvard Medical School’s New Pathway system, beginning with day one of orientation and ending with graduation four years later.
In the new tutorial system, which emphasizes a three-year course in patient-doctor relations, students are introduced immediately to patients, learning to take medical histories in their first year and how to perform physical exams in their second. Rothman, whose interest in medical ethics led her to medical school, flourished under this humanistic approach. Expecting that tough course work and long hours would be the toughest hurdles, she found instead that accepting the responsibility that comes with the white coat was a greater challenge. She is a careful observer and meticulous reporter, providing the kind of detail that prospective medical students will find invaluable. She gives a clear overall picture of how the program is organized and what students are expected to know and do at each stage of their education and then fills this in with chapters describing her own experiences with patients, doctors, and fellow students. While she has changed names and details, her description of these encounters and her reactions to them, especially the stories about patients, have the clear ring of truth. They're not pretty and often have no neat ending, but through them, the conscience of a compassionate doctor can be seen developing. What is refreshing about Rothman’s account is its matter-of-fact style, notably lacking in whining, sensationalism, and disguised boasting. We also follow her romance with a fellow student that ends in marriage just before graduation and the promise of parallel careers to follow.
This medical coming-of-age story is told with clarity, candor and grace and would make a fine graduation present for any pre-med student.