Sunday, February 10, 2008

BAM Feb 2008: The Surgeons

Due to a feverish cold last week, I was able to finish my February Selection for the BAM Challenge. I had selected a nonfiction piece, as last month's read was very romantical. In keeping with the theme of hearts, I went for the literal interpretation and selected a book about heart surgeons. I read The Surgeons: Life and Death in a Top Heart Center by Charles R. Morris.

The first half of the book was engaging and interesting. Morris was able to gain behind the scenes access to one of the top heart centers and hospitals in the US. Soon he blended into the wallpaper, and was able to present two in depth case studies of patients at Columbia-Presbyterian, an older gentleman and a young girl who ultimately died. Morris also focused on the lives of the heart surgeons which gave insight into the lives of these extraordinary problem solvers. Morris probed to learn what it takes to be a heart surgeon, including skill development, training and education, character, problem solving skills and salary. He gave us primary information by posting the notes of one surgeons diary, detailing his surgeries and challenges.

The second half of the book was very dry and not as engaging. Morris discussed quite a bit about policy, money and the future of health care: the business side of heart surgery and health care. I found this to be all rather boring, and not as personal as the work of saving lives. I am drawn to the stories about the surgeons and the difficult choices that need to be made, like the explanation of the transplant process and decision making tree. His prose was accessible, with the mechanics of surgery and the heart easily explained, including a helpful appendix. However, when discussing salaries and comparing them to what other New Yorkers make and the different kinds of work they do, was quite compelling and Morris made the argument that based on the kind of work heart surgeons do and the outcomes, they are underpaid.

I might pursue another book for the second half of the month... perhaps something a bit more romantical....

1 comment:

libraryliz said...

Sadly, a lot of medicine seems to be all about policy and less about saving lives, or at least the personal side of saving lives. I remember thinking that the surgeon who performed my father's bypass surgery seemed like kind of an arrogant tool, but he did a good job in the end so who cares what his personality is like? I guess there's not much call for bedside manner--they basically get in, get out and move on to the next emergency.