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Edited by D Svahn, A Kozak. Bassett Healthcare, 2002, US$15.00, pp 144. ISBN 0972478108
Let Me Listen to Your Heart is the apt title of a collection of autobiographical writings—both prose and poetry—by a group of medical students from the Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, New York State. Most of the pieces deal with the experience of young people grappling with a new, and anxious reality: the transition from preclinical to clinical experiences, from studies of cells and organs, to all the ambiguities and complexity of dealing with real patients for the first time—but without the emotional and professional protection of a medical degree. Although in style some of the pieces are rather artless and flat, and a few others self consciously “literary”, the vast majority are moving, poetic, and beautifully written. The medical student experiences they narrate would be familiar to any qualified doctor, and come over as sincere and deeply felt. Perhaps unfairly, some stand out more than others. I particularly liked: April Zhu’s account of her childhood in Shanghai, and her grandfather’s lung cancer, which blends together personal, family, and cultural narratives; C P Krishnamurthy’s account of her own hospitalisation for an ill defined abdominal pain, and the dichotomy between medical and subjective perceptions of individual suffering; Erica Shoemaker’s monologue of a confused old lady, and Michael Mondress’s short piece on the poignant gap between an elderly demented man, and his old heroic self portrayed in the photographs hung above his bed. All of the others had something to contribute to our understanding of the ways that medical students experience the anxieties and excitements of clinical training, and how they try to make sense of it.
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