It’s no secret that medicine is full of drama (just take a look at the prime time schedule of any US TV network). When I was single, I often gnashed my teeth as the doctor in the crowd monopolized the women with enthralling stories at parties. But I was able to put that residual resentment aside and still have a great time reading Atul Gawande’s collection of loosely connected essays Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance.
A general surgeon at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, Gawande seems fascinated by the art behind his science. He is curious, open and honest about a number of things that lesser doctors would have issues committing to print.
He covers a diverse set of topics: the dilemma of surgeons in Iraq, a polio mop-up operation near Bangalore, the different sides of malpractice suits, unique innovations in child-birthing techniques, Indian surgeons battling overwhelming odds.
All through, Gawande keeps his touch humane. He goes wide and then selectively deep – carefully presenting numbers, occasionally pausing to provide historical backdrops.
Innocuous stuff suddenly becomes fascinating – who would have thought that a chapter on surgeons washing hands could end up being such a page turner?