An honest, moving memoir giving voice to those without one.

ONE LIFE AT A TIME

AN AMERICAN DOCTOR’S MEMOIR OF AIDS IN BOTSWANA

A distinguished doctor tells the story of his years working with HIV/AIDS patients in Botswana.

In 2002, Baxter (The Least of These My Brethren: A Doctor’s Story of Hope and Miracles on an Inner-City AIDS Ward, 1997) traveled to the African nation to manage a new program intended to help the many thousands of Botswanans infected with HIV/AIDS. Brimming with “naïve altruism” and certain that his experiences treating HIV/AIDS patients in New York had prepared him for the task, he was soon confronted by a crisis more massive than he had imagined. The author observed his patients from a distance, dutifully pronouncing their lives to be even more important “than those of people in the States.” But his interactions with his patients soon made him see the “arrogance” of his attitude. One of Baxter’s first patients was Comfort, a 10-year-old girl suffering from malnutrition and an undiagnosed case of HIV. His intervention helped Comfort regain some of her health, but Baxter could do nothing to stop her family from letting her die because they considered her “an albatross, a burden.” To the author’s enduring shame, he realized that his “grand gesture” had been more important to him than Comfort’s fate. As he learned how to navigate cultural differences and dispense with his own egotism, Baxter also witnessed the many problems inherent in the Botswanan medical system, including shortages in qualified staff and medicines. He returned to the U.S. in 2008 believing he had come to “a new awareness about…the suffering that all of us endure.” Instead, he found American patients to be demanding and the American medical system “dysfunctional beyond words.” A second sojourn in Botswana helped him finally come to terms not only with his attitude toward the American medical establishment, but also the deeper, more personal meaning of his time in Africa. Rich in memorable patient portraits, Baxter’s book is at once a meditation on lives saved and lost as well as a testament to the challenges inherent in humanitarian work.

An honest, moving memoir giving voice to those without one.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5107-3576-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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Useful but disappointingly commonplace tips.

A SHORT GUIDE TO A LONG LIFE

In a follow-up to The End of Illness (2012), which explored how technological advances will transform medicine, Agus (Medicine and Engineering/Univ. of Southern California) restates time-tested but too often overlooked principles for healthy living.

The author outlines simple measures that average citizens can take to live healthier lives and extend their life spans by taking advantage of modern technology to develop personalized records. These would include a list of medical tests and recommended treatments. Agus also suggests keeping track of indicators that can be observed at home on a regular basis—e.g., changes in energy, weight, appetite and blood pressure, blood sugar and general appearance. He advises that all of this information be made available online, and it is also helpful to investigate family history and consider DNA testing where indicated. Along with maintaining a healthy weight, Agus emphasizes the importance of eating a balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and a minimum of red meat. Avoid packaged vitamins and food supplements, and if possible, grow your own vegetables or buy frozen vegetables, which will generally be fresher than those on supermarket shelves. The author also warns against processed foods that make health claims but contain additives or excessive amounts of sugar or fat. Regular mealtimes and plenty of sleep, frequent hand-washing and oral hygiene are a must; smoking and excessive time in the sun should also be avoided. Agus recommends that adults should consider taking statins and baby aspirin as preventative measures. He concludes with a decade-by-decade checklist of annual medical examinations that should be routine—e.g. blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol screenings, from one’s 20s on; colonoscopies, prostate exams and mammograms later—and a variety of top-10 lists (for example, “Top 10 Reasons to Take a Walk”).

Useful but disappointingly commonplace tips.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-3095-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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THE END OF ILLNESS

Oncologist Agus (Medicine and Engineering/Univ. of Southern California) predicts that the application of advanced technology for modeling complex systems will transform 21st-century medicine.

The author writes that a remark Nobel Laureate Murray Gell-Mann made to him in 2009—“Look at cancer as a system"—transformed the way he views his own specialty and the entire field of preventative medicine. It made him realize that “[r]ather than honoring the body as the exceedingly complex system that it is, we keep looking for the individual gene that has gone awry, or for the one ‘secret’ that can improve our health.” Agus writes that although the ability to sequence the entire human genome is a great step forward, it is insufficient for achieving a significant breakthrough. Even though it may start with a mutation, cancer “is a dynamic process that's happening…far from the confines of a static piece of DNA”—it involves the body's immune system, its ability to regulate cell growth, metabolism and more. Agus directs his university’s Center for Applied Molecular Medicine and is the co-founder of two personalized medicine companies, Applied Proteomics and Navigenics. His hope is that their research will contribute to developing better analytical tools for preventative medicine and for the treatment of cancers. These will address the functioning of the body as a whole, applying digital technology already used by physicists to provide virtual models of cancers and model the action of proteins that regulate cell communication in the body. He also hopes to develop tools that will provide information on the concentration of different proteins in a drop of blood taken from a patient, which may reveal the onset of disease. The author also includes some guiding principles and warnings about certain healthy practices that may not be so healthy. A refreshing change of pace in the medical field, but by venturing beyond his field of expertise to pontificate on a wide range of subjects, Agus makes his otherwise intriguing narrative difficult to follow.  

 

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-1017-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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