Internal Medicine: A Doctor's Stories
Named one of the Best Books of the Year by Kirkus Reviews and BookPage
“Illuminates human fragility in tales both lyrical and soul-wrenching.” —Danielle Ofri, New York Times Book Review
In this “artful, unfailingly human, and understandable” (Boston Globe) account inspired by his own experiences becoming a doctor, Terrence Holt puts readers on the front lines of the harrowing crucible of a medical residency. A medical classic in the making, hailed by critics as capturing “the feelings of a young doctor’s three-year hospital residency . . . better than anything else I have ever read” (Susan Okie, Washington Post), Holt brings a writer’s touch and a doctor’s eye to nine unforgettable stories where the intricacies of modern medicine confront the mysteries of the human spirit. Internal Medicine captures the “stark moments of success and failure, pride and shame, courage and cowardice, self-reflection and obtuse blindness that mark the years of clinical training” (Jerome Groopman, New York Review of Books), portraying not only a doctor’s struggle with sickness and suffering but also the fears and frailties each of us—doctor and patient—bring to the bedside.
Writing to make sense of his medical residency, Holt, a fiction writer (In the Valley of the Kings) and geriatric specialist at the University of North Carolina, elegantly tells a more far-reaching tale of illness and healing in nine stories. Holt narrates through the voice of a young doctor a composite figure, as are his "patients" beginning with the frustrating case of a woman too claustrophobic to wear an oxygen mask and too ill to be without it, whose agonizing death teaches the doctor that no singular heroics are necessary. As a mentor advised, "There was nothing to do. But at least we could have done it together." There's also the heartrending story of a cancer-stricken artist in hospice, whose home full of exotic birds and oil portraits offers a rare gift, and the strange yet touching story of a patient who kept forgetting his fatal diagnosis, but would light up at the "few faces in the world he can still remember." Each exquisitely crafted and evocative tale reveals not only the power of Holt's storytelling, but the stark realization that for doctors and patients alike, it's our bodies that "remain the essential mystery we keep trying to solve."