On the bookshelf: November 2017

Drawn to true stories of challenge and triumph, especially if they are set in a medical milieu? Care about improving the health care system? Love good writing that makes you stop and think about your own life? In this series, I'll share some of my favourite and most thought-provoking books on health, healing, and the system around it all. If you are lucky enough to have a local independent bookseller, please consider sourcing these books directly.

This is a sweeping novel, a 50-year saga of Africa and America, doctors and patients, exile and home.  The founding director of the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, Verghese is now a Professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

This is a sweeping novel, a 50-year saga of Africa and America, doctors and patients, exile and home.  The founding director of the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, Verghese is now a Professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

This book provides a thoughtful review of gripping patient encounters which have challenged and deepened a psychiatrist’s practice. Inspired by lessons taken from various sources, from medieval dancing plagues to leading forensic research, Dr. Montross wrestles with the most profound questions such as how to simply abide and sit with those in their darkest moments when modern medicine has nothing to offer but comfort.

This book provides a thoughtful review of gripping patient encounters which have challenged and deepened a psychiatrist’s practice. Inspired by lessons taken from various sources, from medieval dancing plagues to leading forensic research, Dr. Montross wrestles with the most profound questions such as how to simply abide and sit with those in their darkest moments when modern medicine has nothing to offer but comfort.

This 55-page paper is based on a 1999 speech given by Don Berwick, President and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Berwick has been fighting for years to reduce medical errors in hospitals and to improve America’s healthcare system—especially after watching his wife become seriously ill and be admitted to hospital for more than 60 days. Berwick is a gifted orator and storyteller who challenges us all to do better.

This 55-page paper is based on a 1999 speech given by Don Berwick, President and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Berwick has been fighting for years to reduce medical errors in hospitals and to improve America’s healthcare system—especially after watching his wife become seriously ill and be admitted to hospital for more than 60 days. Berwick is a gifted orator and storyteller who challenges us all to do better.

The book is Chen’s personal reflections on what she calls “medicine’s most profound paradox…that a profession premised on caring for the ill also systematically depersonalizes dying.”

The book is Chen’s personal reflections on what she calls “medicine’s most profound paradox…that a profession premised on caring for the ill also systematically depersonalizes dying.”

A collection of stories, poems, meditations, and reflections, written by a variety of healthcare professionals, explores what happens between the caring and the cared for and how interchangeable these roles can be.

A collection of stories, poems, meditations, and reflections, written by a variety of healthcare professionals, explores what happens between the caring and the cared for and how interchangeable these roles can be.

Through 50 interviews with fellow physicians, this book explores what the best clinicians do to improve interactions with patients and families, including “do the little things”, “take time”, “be open and listen”, “let the patient explain” and “share authority”.

Through 50 interviews with fellow physicians, this book explores what the best clinicians do to improve interactions with patients and families, including “do the little things”, “take time”, “be open and listen”, “let the patient explain” and “share authority”.

On the bookshelf: October 2017

Drawn to true stories of challenge and triumph, especially if they are set in a medical milieu? Care about improving the health care system? Love good writing that makes you stop and think about your own life? In this series, I'll share some of my favourite and most thought-provoking books on health, healing, and the system around it all. If you are lucky enough to have a local independent bookseller, please consider sourcing these books directly.

A 38-year old man suffers a massive heart attack, his second in 8 months, and complications follow. The author chronicles obstacles and miracles on the road to recovery, with commentary on his care, the importance of his wife’s support and the implications of a prolonged illness.  This memoir is well-written, with biting insights and a healthy sense of humour.

A 38-year old man suffers a massive heart attack, his second in 8 months, and complications follow. The author chronicles obstacles and miracles on the road to recovery, with commentary on his care, the importance of his wife’s support and the implications of a prolonged illness.  This memoir is well-written, with biting insights and a healthy sense of humour.

In his book, the founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and Center for Mindfulness in Medicine shows us how coming to our senses will help us all become more compassionate, aware human beings, and contribute to the healing of the body politic as well as our own lives. (See also his book titled Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness).

In his book, the founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and Center for Mindfulness in Medicine shows us how coming to our senses will help us all become more compassionate, aware human beings, and contribute to the healing of the body politic as well as our own lives. (See also his book titled Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness).

Gawande, a surgeon and former Rhodes scholar, illuminates "the moments in which medicine actually happens," and describes his profession as an "enterprise of constantly changing knowledge, uncertain information, fallible individuals, and at the same time lives on the line." He includes accounts of medical traumas and analysis of doctor anxiety and burnout with humor, sensitivity and critical intelligence.

Gawande, a surgeon and former Rhodes scholar, illuminates "the moments in which medicine actually happens," and describes his profession as an "enterprise of constantly changing knowledge, uncertain information, fallible individuals, and at the same time lives on the line." He includes accounts of medical traumas and analysis of doctor anxiety and burnout with humor, sensitivity and critical intelligence.

A wonderfully told story about a young girl’s journey through cancer told by her father. Shane Meader says he wrote this book both as an outlet—“an expression of the many thoughts, emotions and understandings that have filled me to overflowing”. The book is very readable, including both scientific explanations alongside the raw emotions of a father who loves his daughter.

A wonderfully told story about a young girl’s journey through cancer told by her father. Shane Meader says he wrote this book both as an outlet—“an expression of the many thoughts, emotions and understandings that have filled me to overflowing”. The book is very readable, including both scientific explanations alongside the raw emotions of a father who loves his daughter.

On the bookshelf: September 2017

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Drawn to true stories of challenge and triumph, especially if they are set in a medical milieu? Care about improving the health care system? Love good writing that makes you stop and think about your own life? In this series, I'll share some of my favourite and most thought-provoking books on health, healing, and the system around it all. If you are lucky enough to have a local independent bookseller, please consider sourcing these books directly.

A gripping and troubling story of a young journalist’s descent into what looks like madness and epilepsy. In a matter of days, Susannah Cahalan went from being one of the most promising new writers at the New York Post to being a violent, psychotic, “difficult” patient—until one particular doctor took the time to consider all the symptoms and to talk directly to her.

A gripping and troubling story of a young journalist’s descent into what looks like madness and epilepsy. In a matter of days, Susannah Cahalan went from being one of the most promising new writers at the New York Post to being a violent, psychotic, “difficult” patient—until one particular doctor took the time to consider all the symptoms and to talk directly to her.

An ICU nurse leaves the hospital to explore the world of homecare—tending to people where they live—and found it to be exciting, challenging, fulfilling and fascinating. Comparing the homecare world to what she perceives as the world of waste and excessive use of technology, the author asks a series of provocative questions, all starting with ‘why’.

An ICU nurse leaves the hospital to explore the world of homecare—tending to people where they live—and found it to be exciting, challenging, fulfilling and fascinating. Comparing the homecare world to what she perceives as the world of waste and excessive use of technology, the author asks a series of provocative questions, all starting with ‘why’.

This is a wonderful collection of stories put together by a wide variety of staff who work for Kaiser Permanente.  The stories capture experiences which have both touched and transformed these providers and helped them understand the importance of listening, serving and understanding.

This is a wonderful collection of stories put together by a wide variety of staff who work for Kaiser Permanente.  The stories capture experiences which have both touched and transformed these providers and helped them understand the importance of listening, serving and understanding.

Even being the CEO of KPMG, one of the world’s largest accounting firms, couldn’t keep Eugene O’Kelly from a sudden diagnosis of brain cancer. This is his unforgettable story of the four months between his diagnosis and death—the choices he made about how to use his time and energy, and his reflections on life, love, success, and the search for meaning.

Even being the CEO of KPMG, one of the world’s largest accounting firms, couldn’t keep Eugene O’Kelly from a sudden diagnosis of brain cancer. This is his unforgettable story of the four months between his diagnosis and death—the choices he made about how to use his time and energy, and his reflections on life, love, success, and the search for meaning.

Resilience

Photos from Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant's   Option B

Photos from Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant's Option B

This is my first blog post and I will use this space to share reflections on words that matter and thoughts about what is touching me in my life. This post will be about a book.

I recently finished reading Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. I heard Sheryl being interviewed on CBC radio a few weeks ago and was drawn to her poignant story, relevant insights and tender wisdom. In short, Option B is about the sudden and untimely death of Sheryl’s husband, Dave Goldberg, at age 47, while the two of them were on Mexican vacation, far away from their two young children. Sheryl, noting that Dave had been gone for longer than anticipated, went to find him and discovered him at the resort’s gym where he had collapsed and died...and that’s when events unfolded at both warp speed and in slow motion. The book captures and retells some of those early, awful moments of discovery, of the trip home, of telling her children their father had died, of the early days and weeks. But in addition to this basic story, the book exploreswhat Sheryl’s friend said: “Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the shit out of Option B.”

Easy to say, but how does one do that? The book explores the concept of resilience, and how to develop it so that one can move from a trauma to experience “post-traumatic growth”. The book’s chapters trace Sheryl’s steps along this journey and what helped and what hindered progress. She explores such things as the impact of words, of friends’ actions, of work relationships, and of honouring and recreating family traditions.

I know I was drawn to this book because of two of my own experiences—first, I discovered my mother, dead in her bed, when I was fifteen years old and, years later, discovered a colleague near death at the gym (I talk about these experiences in Transforming Memories); and second, I also experienced the death of my husband, albeit knowing it was coming and that he was not 47 but just over 70. While I know that every trauma is different and unique for the people touched by the trauma, I also have come to deeply understand some of the core elements of the path to resilience Sheryl describes and which I have mirrored:

  • How important it is to acknowledge trauma and talk about it
  • To not hide from pain but to honour it, to embrace it
  • To maintain traditions that feel important and also develop new ones

My mother died over 50 years ago and my husband died over three years ago.  I feel both experiences have led me to ‘post-traumatic growth’. I’m OK and Sheryl Sandberg is on the path to OK. Resilience is possible for all of us. Life gives us reasons to develop ‘resilience skills’ but we don’t have to wait for trauma—we can learn the skills for self-compassion and self-confidence any time. I recommend Option B as a primer and Transforming Memories as a catalyst!

 

Please note: If you check out the blog category On My Bookshelf, you will discover annotations about books I have found to be important, inspiring and insightful... each group of four books, changing monthly, is from a list I’ve compiled over recent years. I love books and I hope you will share titles of books which have been important to you.

On the bookshelf: August 2017

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Drawn to true stories of challenge and triumph, especially if they are set in a medical milieu? Care about improving the health care system? Love good writing that makes you stop and think about your own life? In this series, I'll share some of my favourite and most thought-provoking books on health, healing, and the system around it all. If you are lucky enough to have a local independent bookseller, please consider sourcing these books directly.

This book tells the story of one family which begins when their 5-year old son woke up one morning with an uncontrollable urge to shake his head. The reader follows a 13-year odyssey of medication upon medication, treatment upon treatment, and a constantly changing regimen that left the boy and the family feeling like guinea pigs in an out-of-control experiment.

This book tells the story of one family which begins when their 5-year old son woke up one morning with an uncontrollable urge to shake his head. The reader follows a 13-year odyssey of medication upon medication, treatment upon treatment, and a constantly changing regimen that left the boy and the family feeling like guinea pigs in an out-of-control experiment.

A must-read for everyone… through riveting storytelling and compelling research as well as his own story, Gawande challenges healthcare colleagues to learn to ask, to learn to listen, and to humbly accept that medicine is about improving life and improving the process of its ending.

A must-read for everyone… through riveting storytelling and compelling research as well as his own story, Gawande challenges healthcare colleagues to learn to ask, to learn to listen, and to humbly accept that medicine is about improving life and improving the process of its ending.

The search for hope is the most urgent at a patient’s bedside and Groopman takes us into the lives of people at pivotal moments when they reach for and find hope—or when it eludes their grasp. Groopman, a Harvard Medical School professor and New Yorker staff writer says “I see hope at the very heart of healing."

The search for hope is the most urgent at a patient’s bedside and Groopman takes us into the lives of people at pivotal moments when they reach for and find hope—or when it eludes their grasp. Groopman, a Harvard Medical School professor and New Yorker staff writer says “I see hope at the very heart of healing."

In riveting accounts of medical failure and triumph, Gawande examines how success is achieved in health care. He explores the qualities he associates with diligence and ingenuity from the halls of American hospitals to the fields of war, and from prisons to a district hospital serving 1,400 villages in India. Gawande ends his book with 'Suggestions for Becoming a Positive Deviant', a call to arms to encourage us all to be better.

In riveting accounts of medical failure and triumph, Gawande examines how success is achieved in health care. He explores the qualities he associates with diligence and ingenuity from the halls of American hospitals to the fields of war, and from prisons to a district hospital serving 1,400 villages in India. Gawande ends his book with 'Suggestions for Becoming a Positive Deviant', a call to arms to encourage us all to be better.

This book stems from Servan-Schreiber’s personal experience in the field of cancer, as a doctor and as a patient. It is book is full of science and common-sense wisdom and provides compelling evidence and arguments for participating in our own health by supporting our deep natural capacity for healing. While ‘cancer’ is in the title, it translates to all areas of health.

This book stems from Servan-Schreiber’s personal experience in the field of cancer, as a doctor and as a patient. It is book is full of science and common-sense wisdom and provides compelling evidence and arguments for participating in our own health by supporting our deep natural capacity for healing. While ‘cancer’ is in the title, it translates to all areas of health.

This book is a poignant recounting of the preventable death of a child told by the father. The pages retrace an 18-month battle with the people who failed this little girl and then tried to shirk their responsibilities. On a positive note, the book is also about the changes in hospitals systems and in healthcare providers’ attitudes that came as a direct result of this tragedy.

This book is a poignant recounting of the preventable death of a child told by the father. The pages retrace an 18-month battle with the people who failed this little girl and then tried to shirk their responsibilities. On a positive note, the book is also about the changes in hospitals systems and in healthcare providers’ attitudes that came as a direct result of this tragedy.

On the bookshelf: July 2017

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Drawn to true stories of challenge and triumph, especially if they are set in a medical milieu? Care about improving the health care system? Love good writing that makes you stop and think about your own life? In this series, I'll share some of my favourite and most thought-provoking books on health, healing, and the system around it all. If you are lucky enough to have a local independent bookseller, please consider sourcing these books directly.

This book is called funny, sad, entertaining and insightful—full of vulnerable human moments and joyful camaraderie. The stories are based on 20 years of the author’s life as a nurse, showcasing what she’s learned from both her patients and her colleagues.

This book is called funny, sad, entertaining and insightful—full of vulnerable human moments and joyful camaraderie. The stories are based on 20 years of the author’s life as a nurse, showcasing what she’s learned from both her patients and her colleagues.

Robert Martensen Martensen, who is both an MD and historian of medicine, demonstrates how we and our loved ones can maintain dignity and resilience in the face of serious and critical illnesses. He raises timely questions about choices we will all have to make.

Robert Martensen
Martensen, who is both an MD and historian of medicine, demonstrates how we and our loved ones can maintain dignity and resilience in the face of serious and critical illnesses. He raises timely questions about choices we will all have to make.

From an alcoholic doctor to a woman who lost loved ones to accidents and drug addiction, these compelling stories remind us that loss, injustice and setbacks need not diminish us, but can ultimately shore us up.

From an alcoholic doctor to a woman who lost loved ones to accidents and drug addiction, these compelling stories remind us that loss, injustice and setbacks need not diminish us, but can ultimately shore us up.

A collection of true stories that are examples of various types of errors, the impact on all the people affected, and the efforts made to find out what went wrong so that future needless suffering will be avoided in the future.

A collection of true stories that are examples of various types of errors, the impact on all the people affected, and the efforts made to find out what went wrong so that future needless suffering will be avoided in the future.