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Book Review: Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So

I’ll cut to the chase: I loved this book. Five stars. Two thumbs up.

When I read books, especially psychiatry books that I write about on Shrink Rap, I often read more carefully and sometimes more critically. I was so immersed in reading “Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So” that I didn’t stop to think, I just went on the journey.

Mark Vonnegut is a pediatrician and the son of my favorite author when I was in junior high school. His memoir is a poignant and candid account of his struggles with, well, life in general, and life with a psychotic illness in particular. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder — who knows? (I’ll vote for bipolar disorder.) Some illness where he had three episodes in his twenties, then another episode 14 years later.

Thorazine and lithium and megavitamins and psych wards. Xanax and alcohol and how humiliating it is to be psychotic on a stretcher in the ER hallway of the hospital where he works. Divorce and remarriage. First and second families. Childhood as the son of a financially struggling, not-yet-famous eccentric writer, and adulthood as the son of an icon. Vonnegut is a hippy, a mainstream doctor, a middle-aged softball player, then finally a guy who accidentally poisons himself with wild mushrooms. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

When Medical Dedication Comes From Personal Pain

The old joke about psychological therapists is they are among the biggest consumers of therapy themselves. Lately, I have been noticing more and more how a significant portion of the people we meet wearing white lab coats have a very personal connection to the medical work they do. For them it is not a job, a meal ticket, or just putting their years of training into practice, it is a mission connected to something in their past, something in their own body, or the health of a loved one.

A recent example is Kaiten Kormanik. She is 23 and has had the genetic condition PKU since birth. She has to follow a strict low protein diet or otherwise risk severe negative effects on her brain. If you toured the labs of The Children’s Hospital of UPMC in Pittsburgh you might bump into her as she does research for her Ph.D. on, guess what?- genetic illnesses in children. And she often works alongside Dr. Gerald Vockley, the very expert physician who guides her care. As you can imagine, Kaitlen thinks about her own childhood and the faces of other children every day. You can hear her story on one of our recent programs.

Irl Hirsh, M.D., at the University of Washington, is one of America’s most famous diabetes doctors. He has diabetes himself and has all the challenges everyone with this disease has in managing it. You can hear his story on one of our earlier programs on diabetes. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Andrew's Blog*

The Dream Disconnect: A Tribute To Lillie Love

On my Friday commute to work I sometimes hear a tale of someone’s life as recorded through Story Corps. NPR plays these short, oral narratives in which an “average” person recounts some significant moments in his life, or reflects on what really mattered in her every day routine. They are short, pithy, genuine, and often inspiring.

Among the laudable characteristics that make humans unique is our ability to tell stories. On this particular Friday I listened to a singularly moving piece, only about 2 minutes long. It was recorded by a woman named Lillie Love who unfortunately passed away two weeks ago at 53 years of age. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Examining Room of Dr. Charles*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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