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Instead of the usual cut-and-dried listings of courses, requirements, institutions, and so on, Bluestone's informal, chatty advisory deals with what it's like to be in the pre-clinical or clinical years of medical school, or in internship or residency, and how various students react to the experience. Often she draws on her own experience as a medical student in the 1950s, when she decided to be a doctor despite poor math and science grades in college, and a then-six-percent female enrollment in medical schools. (The personal element makes for slack and unimpressive copy, however, when she reproduces her letters home and even includes a typical undergraduate sonnet she wrote upon dissecting her first frog.) In line with her promise to deal with ""realities,"" Bluestone emphasizes the ability to plod and to hustle as the major requirements for medical school; warns that the outside world becomes unreal in a time-pressed life of study and that ethical values become strained in the competitive climate (will you take easy undergraduate courses just for the pre-med grades? would you rip an assigned article from a library medical journal?); and describes the exhaustion of interns on round-the-clock service and the anguish Of a resident who must prescribe for a slum child and then send her back to the conditions that made her sick. She considers sincerely the ""super-woman"" problem of the professional woman who may have to limit her ambitions in order to give her children their due, and she touches many bases, from unconscious reasons for wanting to be a doctor to the difficulties of minority candidates. However, she merely skims the motives issue and offers little substantial advice to minorities, especially underestimating the financial impediments facing the aspiring but poor. Further, her light style too often becomes silly and wordy: ""Patients are fun, more fun than a barrel of monkeys. They are the pot of gold at the end of the student's climb up the rainbow."" Nevertheless, she does give the starry-eyed a taste of reality, and the truly interested will wade through the mush for the glimpse of the daily round.

Pub Date: Oct. 13th, 1981
Publisher: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard