What do you wish you'd read before you left college?
November 12, 2013 9:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm helping to design a course for college juniors and seniors in the health sciences. What books (textbooks, popular non-fiction, or even novels), articles, essays, and websites would be most helpful for the students as they finish up their degrees?

I'm a new faculty member at a university that's getting ready to graduate the first students from our Bachelor of Health Sciences program. It's a non-clinical degree for students who are interested in health promotion or policy development, as well as students who want to go on to medical, nursing, dental, PA, OT, or other clinical careers.

The students who are preparing to graduate have one last course that they'll take at the same time they're doing their internships. The course competencies include critical thinking, technology utilization, teaching/learning, communication, health care systems, ethics, cultural sensitivity, and more. I'm looking for readings for this course - ideally, readings that will give the students the information they're going to need in the very near future, but that they may not have considered.

If you're a health professional, or if you're not, what do you wish you'd read before you left college? What do you wish you'd known?
posted by terrierhead to Education (19 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know about usefulness, curricula, etc. but And The Band Played On is a great book, an incredible example of popular science/medical writing, and simply a book I think everyone should read. Scientists and clinicians, possibly even moreso. It also ties in really well with public health and policy. Ethics and cultural sensitivity come into it, too.

(Not a health professional. Just someone who really loves And The Band Played On and thinks it should be required reading.)
posted by Sara C. at 9:23 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pour Your Heart Into It by Howard Schultz
posted by KokuRyu at 9:44 PM on November 12, 2013

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

This excellent work of nonfiction may be of particular benefit to Health Science majors, with material relating directly to the communication, health care systems, ethics, and cultural sensitivity competencies you listed.
posted by maya at 10:00 PM on November 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

anything and everything from Atul Gawande.
posted by Dashy at 10:28 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

You might find some interesting pieces in Hektoen International Journal of the Medical Humanities.

There's also quite a lot of good writing in the New England Journal of Medicine Perspectives column.
posted by gubenuj at 10:45 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing's "Monster stories: women charged with perinatal endangerment" is kind of old, but it's still an excellent anthropological critique of how class and ethnicity factor into judgments of women as medical non-compliers.

Unni Wikan's "Managing the heart to brighten face and soul: emotions in Balinese morality and health care" is also old, but I really like it as an illustration of alternative rationales for behaviors that are seemingly obvious in meaning.

They both address substantive, practical issues related to ethics and cultural sensitivity in this domain with fairly vivid examples from which you can get a lot of basic points like don't rush to judgment, don't make too many assumptions, look for other explanations, bear your own prejudices in mind, etc.

Incidentally, my experience is with cultural anthropology, not health sciences, but regardless, what I actually wish I'd read before leaving college is How to Win Friends and Influence People. For a long time, I was put off by the title, which sounds like an appeal to someone who's scheming or self-serving. But really, it's awesome and perhaps very useful to health science professionals.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:20 PM on November 12, 2013

You might want to check out the Literature, Arts and Medicine Database. It's intended as a resource for health/medical educators and contains an admittedly overwhelming number of annotations for books, films, artworks, short stories, and poems related to topics in medicine and health.

You can search by keyword, and then narrow by category: art, literature, film.

Each annotation contains a description of the work and then a commentary on its relevance/use in medical/health education. For example, here is the annotation for the previously mentioned The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:47 PM on November 12, 2013

I found that "the emperor of all maladies" was 1) a very smooth read about the history of cancer research aand treatment and 2) interesting because it covers some parts of Health policy in an accesible way.
posted by Zigurana at 1:34 AM on November 13, 2013

Jeff Schmidt's somewhat infamous Disciplined Minds: A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-battering System That Shapes Their Lives.

Incendiary in places, perhaps, and at times more geared towards the grad school experience, but it might encourage your students to think critically about the issues of power and ideology involved in professional life, and how the system of credentialing they've just been through might constrain them to act and think in certain ways.
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:11 AM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. An African American woman hospitalized at Johns Hopkins in the 50's was unsuccessfully treated for cervical cancer. Cells from her cancer, harvested without her permission, are the source of the most widely used cell line in research to this day.
posted by FiveSecondRule at 4:18 AM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's not literature or informative for the soul, but some form of personal finance book is something schools should encourage students to read.

It might be a little too focused on security for what you're looking for, but Beyond Fear by Bruce Schneier does a good job of talking about the need to rationally evaluate cost/benefit ratios.
posted by Candleman at 5:49 AM on November 13, 2013

For critical thinking, Thinking, Fast and Slow is essential. It's written incredibly clearly, but it is a bit long (about 500 pages). How Doctors Think is not quite as brilliant (but still an excellent book) but covers similar material in fewer pages, and it's focused specifically on medicine.

The Narrative Matters of Health Affairs has some great stuff too. "Narrative Matters features personal stories about experiences with the health care system and the people in it using the power of literary nonfiction to highlight an important public policy issue."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:22 AM on November 13, 2013

The Death of Ivan Ilych is widely used in medical ethics courses.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:45 AM on November 13, 2013

Nthing And the Band Played On and the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Engaging writing and the stories are breathtaking.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:08 AM on November 13, 2013

Not a health professional, but some of my work has overlapped a bit with health policy, and I am a huge Paul Farmer/Partners in Health fangirl. Pathologies of Power has been especially essential to developing how I think about health. Infections and Inequalities is also great but a bit dry. Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder's biography of Farmer, is quick and inspiring read.
posted by naoko at 7:17 AM on November 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Atul Gawande in general, but both Better and The Checklist Manifesto should be required reading for everyone, and many of the examples and case studies are from science and healthcare.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:37 AM on November 13, 2013

Very highly recommended if there is an interest in the nitty gritty of U.S. health policy. Julie Rovner is currently a health policy reporter for NPR and her book is called Health Care Policy and Politics A To Z.

For current U.S. health policy, Kaiser Health News has excellent reporting that is actually used in many national newspapers now that many don't have a health reporter on staff.
posted by forkisbetter at 12:07 PM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wish I had studied statistics enough to get to the point where I intuitively understood Bayes' Therorem. This article makes a stab at it, in a medical context. I'm guessing you weren't looking for mathematics, but given that like 15 percent of doctors get the right answer to that opening Bayes question, it seems relevant. If the curriculum is to skew more reading / humanities / debate, it might be interesting to start the class off with an attendance quiz and use the class results as an opener to statistical/scientific literacy among practitioners.

Supercrunchers was a relatively good read on statistical analysis, and it has chapters on both government policy making and physicians.
posted by pwnguin at 9:21 PM on November 13, 2013

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