Tag Archive: doctors

Doctors For You

Drs Chandani & Anushree Maheshwari, sisters originally from New Delhi, first came to assist us with our relief operations in Uttarakhand. Both sisters travelled unaccompanied by any senior faculty, to Uttarakhand and commenced their work in collaboration with our partners. For over a week, they braved inhospitable and unfamiliar terrain to attend to ailing patients. To visit the more distant villages, there were some days they had to travel over 6-7 km, but even this didn’t deter them. Our senior staff had nothing but the highest praise for these sisters, their dedication and medical expertise.

We commend them for their commitment to the DFY vision, and can only hope they have inspired the youth of our country to come forward and volunteer too.

Drs Chandani & Anushree MaheshwariA big thank you from the DFY family, for your time, and for the lives you’ve touched.

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The Pulitzer citation describes it as, “an elegant inquiry, at once clinical and personal, into the long history of an insidious disease that, despite treatment breakthroughs, still bedevils medical science.”

Delectable prose

“Elegant” is an apposite description of the New York-based oncologist’s prose, whether he is rephrasing Tolstoy: “Normal cells are identically normal; malignant cells become unhappily malignant in unique ways”; or explaining the book’s provocative title: “This book is a ‘biography’ in the truest sense of the word – an attempt to enter the mind of this immortal illness, to understand its personality, to demystify its behaviour”; or extrapolating, from cancer’s ability to mutate, into the realm of philosophy: “If we, as a species, are the ultimate product of Darwinian selection, then so, too, is this incredible disease that lurks inside us.”

Mukherjee weaves together multiple stories about medical advances, doctors and scientists, and the patients who teach us something in the living or dying.Emperoris a historical account of cancer; we understand how cancer rose to prominence as a leading cause of death – as a direct result of human beings living longer now, and more likely to develop cancer. A greater understanding of the disease however comes with the caveat, the more you know, the more aware you are of how much you don’t know.

Another doctor/author who combines the three key ingredients that makeEmperorsuch an un-putdownable read — medical expertise, literary elegance and the ability to tell a story — is Abraham Verghese. His first two books,My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story of a Town and Its People in the Age of AIDSandThe Tennis Partnerare gripping and finely crafted — more, they are candid and compassionate.

Addressing our fears

By dealing with two of the worst monsters of our time, AIDS and addiction, Verghese’s books address some of our darkest fears, whether our own demons or those of our loved ones.

A couple of years ago Verghese took the plunge into fiction withCutting For Stone, which borrowed elements from his personal history to tell the story of a family enmeshed in the world of medicine across multiple lands including India, a mission hospital in Ethiopia and an inner-city hospital in New York City. Verghese has previously written that “to tell a life story [is] to engage in a form of seduction”; no surprise that he has his readers hooked.

Do Indian doctors make good writers? While more research — blind tests, even — would be needed to prove or disprove the assertion, another hyphenate making the bestseller lists is general surgeon and MacArthur fellow Atul Gawande, author ofThe Checklist Manifesto,BetterandComplications.

The Checklist Manifestois an unusual exploration of the power of the to-do list. The author uses his own experiences to show that surgery today, for example, is far too multifaceted a task to perform without a detailed checklist. We fail, not because we don’t have the knowledge, but because we haven’t developed a methodical system to use that knowledge.

Doctors aside, medical writers also come from the world of journalism, such as Lisa Sanders. Her claim to fame is that her Diagnosis column for theNY Timeswas the inspiration for the popular TV drama, HouseMD, for which she serves as technical advisor. Her book,Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosislooks at how misdiagnosis can be at the root of medical errors. She suggests that tests/scans can’t be the only basis for diagnosis; a doctor needs to employ a full range of techniques from the physical exam to listening to the patient’s story.

The doctor’s story is worth listening to, as well, hence the popularity of the medical memoir. InHeart Matters: A Memoir of a Female Heart Surgeon, author Kathy Magliato strikes a chord when she describes “the thrill of touching the human heart”. As one of the world’s very few female heart surgeons, she offers a different viewpoint on what is largely regarded as a male preserve.

Author Tim Parks inTeach Us to Sit Stillshares how reading a famous self-help book,A Headache in the Pelvishelped with his chronic pelvic pain syndrome. There’s a book out there on pretty much any medical condition you want; for example, while on pelvic pain, you could find a purely woman-centric one on the subject such asEnding Female Pain: A Woman’s Manual – The Ultimate Self-Help Guide for Women Suffering from Chronic Pelvic and Sexual Painby Isa Herrera.

Medical books deal with a subject close to our hearts — us, we, ourselves. Perhaps the ones we are most drawn to – thrillers aside – are those that give us a deeper insight into how the mind-body machine works, why we are sick, how we can get better — and, unhappily, sometimes, why we can’t. The doctor-author hyphenates are some of the most talented storytellers in this field; so when you next get a prescription from your doctor, bear in mind that within that undecipherable scrawl could lurk the beginnings of a literary masterpiece.