Interesting reads for aspiring medical scientists
December 28, 2008 3:24 PM   Subscribe

For those of you in medical fields, what books, sites, or organizations reinforced your career decisions?

Inspired by this recommendation in an unrelated thread, I'm seeking more such items.

My son (16) son is interested in medical careers and righting wrongs. He loves to read, so I thought some interesting resources might be in order. What books, magazines, websites, and such do you recommend for young aspiring doctors or other medical scientists? He also has a huge interest in justice, sociology, world healthcare, and more. He frequently mentions Doctors Without Borders as something he'd like to do.
posted by ick to Education (4 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The works of Oliver Sacks are very dear to my heart. Sacks is a brilliant man and an incredibly learned neurologist, but he is also a model of compassion and caring, and a wise philosopher. In addition to that, he really knows how to tell a story.

This next may sound a little sappy, but James Herriot's stories of being a rural Yorkshire veterinarian always were inspiring to me - same reasons I like Sacks' stories, come to think about it.

I enjoyed Bernard Lown's The Lost Art of Healing - Lown helped found Physicians for Social Responsibility, a group that doesn't perhaps get quite as much good press as MSF/DWB, but is equally virtuous.

I'd suggest not exposing a 16-year-old person to too much detail about health care inequity. These problems are so hard and so vexing that they run the risk of being oppressive and de-inspirational. One of the things I always admired about the above 3 authors is that in addition to their wisdom and ability to take the wide view, they also understand that ultimately, health care problems are always and only fixed in one way: namely, one patient at a time.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:58 PM on December 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Lame as it may seem, I was given a copy of Chicken Soup for the Nurses Soul around the age of sixteen when I decided to become a nurse. While I can't say it changed my world (I was already determined to become an RN) it did have a pretty deep impact on me. It showed me a large variety of situations nurses find themselves in while working in several of the infinite number of areas one can focus.

Another book on nursing, but also about the medical field in general: Nursing Against the Odds. It's a rather long book, but worth it in order to understand how the medical world operates. In the same vein, I absolutely couldn't put down either of Atul Gawande's books, Complications and Better. Gawande is an incredible writer with a great point of view, although mostly focused on doctors.

As an aside, I highly suggest your son look into nursing. Male nurses are somewhat rare....well, really rare, but vital and necessary if our profession is ever to progress beyond gender stereotypes. Plus, there is quite a bit of affirmative action aimed towards men interested in nursing. In the current climate of college applications becoming extremely competitive, nursing is one area where men get quite a large boost from their gender. Plus, you know, nursing is awesome.
posted by nursegracer at 10:25 PM on December 28, 2008

I second Atul Gawande, and also recommend Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. This one's about a doctor named Paul Farmer who has been doing amazing work to fight tuberculosis in communities that have very few resources, particularly in Haiti. He works at both an individual level, patient by patient, and at a policy level to improve treatment standards and funding. Though it's obvious that his dedication to the cause has taken a serious toll on his social life, I think the book is still very inspirational.
posted by vytae at 6:31 AM on December 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you for all the suggestions so far. They're all great and exactly the type of stuff I'm seeking. He doesn't really know if he wants to be nurse, labrat, doctor, writer, etc. But, he knows he wants to be involved in medical field somehow.
posted by ick at 11:32 AM on December 31, 2008

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