A doctor’s newspaper column sheds light on everyday risks and ailments.
Between 2013 and 2015, debut author Healey wrote a weekly medical advice column for his local paper, the St. Lawrence Plaindealer of Canton, New York. Based on the author’s 38 years of small-town general practice, these short, easily digestible pieces are full of practical advice about common conditions, such as sleep apnea, asthma, dizziness, and back pain. Some topics extend to two- or three-part series. Overall, there’s a clear focus on preventive medicine and screening tests, with essays explaining the risk factors for cancer, how to manage high cholesterol, and the benefits of regular colonoscopies. Healey also warns against hidden dangers in ordinary foodstuffs. Likening sugar to a drug, he pinpoints processed foods—particularly sodas—as a key factor in skyrocketing diabetes rates. This is society’s true “drinking problem,” he observes: “our fluid consumption is fine. We just don’t drink water anymore.” On the flip side, the book highlights areas in which medical intervention is overzealous: doctors overuse CAT and MRI scans, Healey opines, and too frequently prescribe antibiotics to children. Whether he’s writing about poison ivy, traditional breakfast foods, or testosterone therapy, his style is always down-to-earth. For instance, he refers to popular sayings in this good-natured warning about skin cancer: “stop this senseless exposure to the sun. Leave it for mad dogs and Englishmen. Let peaches and cream be the new look.” He also offers glimpses into his own life to make his counsel more relatable, such as his mother’s death from breast cancer, his 92-year-old father’s end-of-life plans, and the fact that he’s married to a nurse. The essays also benefit from mentions of Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October) and Thanksgiving (gratitude, Healey notes, is a factor in healing). The essays are in their original published order, but a selection of the best columns, with redundant material cut out or grouped together, might have made for a better final product.
A pleasant, if slightly repetitive, set of medical-themed essays.