The 111 essays are brief and as is true of any collection of writings from diverse individuals, are of somewhat uneven quality. Some are good. Some are fair. Some are meh.
One of my favorite pieces was one by a doctor who had received his diploma 10 days before a flight home. During the flight, a woman collapsed—prompting the dreaded “Are there any physicians on board” announcement. The new grad was the only responder. Having experienced this myself a couple of times, I had no trouble identifying with the author who described his predicament well.
I learned something from another of the essays which described a novel intervention for wandering patients with dementia.
A unique feature of the book is that every story is accompanied by a few “reflection questions” prompting the readers to think about what they just read. The questions add value and could serve as the basis for stimulating group discussions.
I corresponded by email with one of the book’s editors, Dr. Major. In response to my minor complaint that essays venerating anatomy lab cadavers were somewhat overdone, he said that the posts on that subject were among the most read on the website and reminded me that the audience for the book was medical students.
I was struck by the dearth of humor in most of the essays. I must confess I haven't read every essay, so it is possible I might have missed a few on a lighter note. Is medical school now so overwhelming that no one can see the fun side of things? Or is it politically incorrect to even mention something humorous that may have occurred in medical school?
I graduated from medical school 45 years ago. We worked hard, studied hard, and occasionally partied hard. I recall having a lot of fun along the way. Is it so much different now?
Dr. Major said, “I agree that the majority of the pieces are of a more serious tone. In fact, the vast majority of pieces we've received at In-Training over the past four years have heavily leaned towards more serious topics, and this collection reflects that.” He also felt that the culture of medical education probably has changed since I was in school. No doubt that is so.
I recommend this book to pre-meds and medical students who might want to hear what medical school is like from writers at diverse institutions.
Just keep in mind that although the culture of medical education may have changed over the years, it is still possible to have fun and make some lifelong friends.
Ajay Major and Aleena Paul. In-Training: Stories from Tomorrow’s Physicians (Pager Publications Inc, 2016) 347 pages. Available on the In-Training website.
Disclosure: I was given a copy of the book to review.