A health professional turns an experienced eye toward sensible, ground-level actions to make medical care better and cheaper.



Physician, scientist, and health care administrator Lee charts a new and improved system that lowers costs while providing more efficient service.

Lee, president of Health Platforms at Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences), is appalled by the current state of health care in the U.S., where spending is "rapidly approaching $4 trillion per year," far more than in countries that provide universal coverage—and our results are worse. In a nation in which 10% of citizens don’t have or can’t afford health insurance (and millions are underinsured), the landscape is dire: We waste 30 cents of every dollar spent on health care, 20% of medical care is unnecessary, medical errors are the third-leading cause of death, we forego preventative care, and we push high-cost, branded drugs instead of generics. Although Lee sometimes drifts into insurance-speak—"the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement pilot project"—she mostly presents sensible options: "Pay for results instead of action" (collaring costs, predicating fees for results); set expectations of zero tolerance for serious medical errors; giant providers (such as Medicare and the Veterans Health Administration) should negotiate prices; take cues from successful "employer-driven and government-run health systems"; and understand that it will take time to build "on the vital roles that everyone needs to play.” Lee believes that the fee-for-service models undercut doctors’ intrinsic motivations—such as purpose and mastery—and that it is crucial for patients to become fully engaged in their health care. Of particular value are the action plans that conclude each chapter, which contain countless helpful suggestions for patients, consumers, physicians, health care professionals, health care payers, and policymakers. These include tapping into big data (with buffers for privacy), a 10-point plan for employers, and a health system that learns from its results and acts on them.

A health professional turns an experienced eye toward sensible, ground-level actions to make medical care better and cheaper.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-324-00667-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...


A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.


A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.

For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).

An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-786-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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