Kelly’s memoir explores the idea that medicine not only mends the body, but can also heal the soul.
This charming, touching collection of stories about medical work from a seasoned physician gives insights into the doctor-patient relationship. Kelly was driven to become a doctor by the feeling of security he experienced when attending a medical office as a child. Here, he considers the many lessons learned from his patients. From the shock of encountering his first cadaver in medical school—the instructor reminded the class that the body must be treated like that of a loved one—to the ache of losing a patient, Kelly recounts intimate conversations and situations that mark him as an attentive, compassionate professional. He writes of medical school and his first medical residency and recounts the learning curves, trials, and errors that characterized those years (“Chris was the first person I’d watched die right in front of me….And I felt like a failure for not being able to save him”). Though concerned with the tribulations and idiosyncrasies of the medical occupation specifically, the memoir shows how any profession in which one encounters the misfortunes and tragedies of strangers can drive one to be more empathetic. The book, then, is just as much an exploration of the meaning of life and morality in the face of mortality—a fact we are made all the more conscious of by illness and injury—as it is an exploration of the emotional trajectory of one man’s experience of becoming a doctor. Deeply humane and eminently readable, this book provides a model for mutual understanding between doctors and those they treat. More than this, though, it emphasizes the importance of listening: to the voices, as well as the bodies, of others.
An intelligent, sensitive reflection on the practice of medicine.