In his debut memoir, a retired neurosurgeon reflects on medical history, his varied career and personal matters.
Geissinger, schooled in the third generation of neurosurgery, came of age in the mid-1950s. His long, often arduous journey led to his successful practice and eventual teaching of neurosurgery. Here, the author is firmly entrenched in the past, and his appreciation of his field’s pioneers is reflected both in the book’s content and tone. The first half of the title is filled with numerous case histories, many of which depict the conditions and procedures during the discipline’s nascent stages. These early practitioners gave the author his healthy perspective on success—something, he maintains, that could benefit modern medical students. The second half of the book veers off its presumed course, when illness pushes Geissinger out of medicine and into careers as a rancher and furniture maker. Eventually, an opportunity arises to reconnect with medicine, this time as an instructor. Geissinger’s memoir appeals on several levels: Medical students will likely find the advice useful, while readers with an interest in neurosurgery will appreciate the book’s focus on pioneering methods. The author’s retired peers will likely relate to stories set during the “golden years.” Furthermore, his approach to this memoir is emblematic of the neurosurgery profession itself: meticulous and sharply compartmentalized. Geissinger painstakingly recounts his many endeavors, including time spent at a ranch “intensely studying the premier bulls to be auctioned off on [a] Saturday morning.” Patient anecdotes, however, would have been much more accessible if indexed by conditions and treatment.
Valuable for medical school students as well as general memoir fans.