LEARNING HOW THE HEART BEATS by Claire McCarthy

LEARNING HOW THE HEART BEATS

The Making of a Pediatrician
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A collection of gracefully written short pieces narrated by a thoughtful, sensitive young woman in the process of becoming a doctor. McCarthy, now a pediatrician at an inner-city clinic in Boston, began writing these essays (she calls them stories) while at Harvard Medical School and continued through her residency in pediatrics at Children's Hospital in Boston. Each of these pieces, originally published in the Boston Globe magazine, shows her reacting to a different, usually difficult, situation and concludes with her gaining some new insight about what it means to become a doctor. The formula is simple, but the author's idealism, frankness, and modesty set her accounts apart from the more self-important ones that medical practitioners sometimes produce. The opening piece, which describes McCarthy's encounter with a cadaver in her first-year anatomy class, reveals that the emotional component of medicine is her primary concern. In others, she worries about thinking too much like a doctor, learns how important it is to be able to communicate with patients, and discovers that, even as a student who can't perform procedures, she can still offer aid and comfort to a frightened patient. We also see McCarthy awkwardly touching the boundaries that separate her roles as doctor and as friend. Later stories about AIDS babies and abused children show the painful limits of medicine. The intelligence behind these beautiful stories keeps them from being tearjerkers: There's no shortage of compassion and caring, but McCarthy's control of her material is such that sentimentality never creeps in. By the end, the author has become a pediatrician and a mother, two roles whose synergy promise to make her better than good at both. This delightful book makes the future of medicine seem brighter.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-670-83874-8
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1994