610: One Doctor by Brendan Reilly

by Gerard


610.695: Reilly, Brendan. One Doctor: Close Calls, Cold Cases, and the Mysteries of Medicine. New York: Atria Books, 2013. 369 pp. ISBN 978-1-4767-2629-8.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 600: Technology
  • 610: Medicine
  • 610.6: Organizations, management, group practice, medical personnel and relationships
  • 610.69: Medical personnel and relationships
  • 610.695: Physicians

Medicine is simultaneously one of the most rewarding and heart-breaking fields to work in. Every day, millions of physicians are tasked with managing the livelihoods of countless injured or sick patients. They can have an infinite number of backgrounds and come in with a dizzying array of issues. In relatively little time, they have to assess their patient, diagnose them, and pursue a course of treatment that takes many factors into account. I do not envy them one bit, but neither do I bemoan their profession or their pay. Brendan Reilly’s One Doctor gives us a peek into a two-week window of the life of a primary care physician and his team at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Dr. Reilly, normally a hospital administrator, is on a two-week rotation at New York Presbyterian. He readily admits that he is a dinosaur in the field of medicine, a 60ish internist. Nowadays many doctors are pushed to become specialists (because, apparently, that’s where the money is). He tries to get a complete picture of each patient and then use an entire body of symptoms to diagnose and treat. The members of his training team are each on their way to different fields, but still try to learn from each other. In many ways  this book is like an episode of House but without all the drug use and incessant snarkiness. While some of the cases presented are easily worked, many involve a complicated mixture of testing, medical history, and personal experience.

Reilly’s tales cover the entirety of the human condition. There is sadness, relief, joy, bewilderment, life, and, yes, death. When you treat a person for the first time, everything they’ve ever gone through has brought them to that moment, and the doctor has to comb through all that to properly treat them. The author also goes into details about how modern hospitals and health care regulations have shaped the field of medicine and how that affects patients. Luckily, he a scientist at heart and all this statistics and assertions are supported by bibliographic notes. Like everyone else, he is frustrated at the current condition of medicine, one that values money over mankind, but in the end, he tries his hardest to treat everyone fairly  and respectfully. I found this book to be very illuminating and not overly schlocky. It’s a bit thick, but you’ll get absorbed in each case fairly quickly. An enlighening read.