Another memorable collection of medical stories and essays from young physician Transue (On Call: A Doctor’s Days and Nights in Residency, 2004).
The author, who also teaches creative writing at the University of Washington School of Medicine, begins her second memoir on her first day in private practice as a primary-care physician in Seattle. She shows herself learning valuable life lessons from her patients, but she broadens her scope to include family, and the lessons include ones about love and loss, grief and healing. As Transue was launching her practice, her father, who had dementia, was slowly dying, and her beloved elderly grandparents struggled with poor health. “I was learning the role a primary care physician plays in people’s lives,” she writes. “Being a daughter and granddaughter was equally important, as I followed the people I loved in the journey toward the end of life. The two roles enriched and informed each other.” Though often poignant and even somber—she lost both her father and her grandmother during this period, and some of her patients suffered from terminal illnesses—her stories are suffused with warmth, revealing the special relationship that can develop between an empathetic doctor and a trusting patient. There’s humor, too, as Transue touches on the mishaps and misunderstandings that are part of running a private practice, as well as the funny things that patients think and say and do. In a section entitled “Words,” she mulls over some of the euphemisms and odd word usages of her profession and the apt neologisms of patients. When one patient blended “drugs” and “groggy” to tell her that a medication made him “too droggy to drive,” she added the term to her own vocabulary.
With her second perceptive memoir, Transue claims a solid place in the growing ranks of doctors who write well.