Category Archives: books, literature, arts

Physician authors share the heart of health

Physicians often do other things besides practice medicine. Many have hobbies and travel extensively. Many do spiritual ministry and other volunteer community activity.

I know doctors who dance, sing, play instruments, act, and do comedy. Others own and manage side businesses.

But probably the most common non-practice activity that doctors do is write-like me, and other physician bloggers.

When I started blogging 4 years ago, I knew few other physician bloggers, but the number has grown so large I know few of them now.

Doctors write health and medical books and blogs of course, but they cover other topics too-finances, travel, food, family, parenting, spirituality, fashion. They’ll usually throw in their unique perspective as a physician in approaching these non-medical topics.

And they don’t all write non-fiction; doctors write novels too, some of which get made into movies.

Books reviewed here- a list

I’ve reviewed or referenced several books written by physicians. In this post, I’m listing links to those reviews. along with a brief excerpt. I hope you’ll bookmark this page so you can come back and read all of them if you don’t get to them all now.

Enjoy exploring the HEART of health with these physician writers.

(This post contains affiliate links which, by paying a commission if used for a purchase, help fund this blog. )

The Point of it All

If you wondered why Pulitzer prize winning journalist Charles Krauthammer quit his medical career to write a political column for the Washington Post newspaper, you’ll learn the answer in his newest and sadly last book. He explained

“I left psychiatry to start writing…because I felt history happening outside the examining room door. I wanted to…because some things matter, some things need to be said, some things need to be defended.”

Being Mortal

Dr. Gawande poignantly describes this process by sharing in detail his  father’s cancer diagnosis, treatment, progression, hospice care and death. He shows how difficult a process this can be, given that even he and his parents, all of whom are physicians, struggled to come to terms with the reality of terminal illness and the dying process. Though they were all familiar with and experienced in dealing with the medical system, they still felt unprepared to face the decisions required at the end of life. But in the end, both he and his father felt at peace with the outcome and Dr. Gawande senior did experience “a good life-all the way to the very end.”

What Patients Say , What Doctors Hear

As a physician, this was not an easy book to read; Dr. Ofri does not hesitate to tell us physicians what we need to do better in our communication with our patients.

But she also makes it plain to patients that you have a role and a vested stake in communicating your concerns, questions, and even grievances to the physicians who care for you; that without such information, your physicians cannot provide optimal diagnosis and treatment for you.

When Breath Becomes Air

This memoir is not so much a diary of what happened to Dr. Kalanithi as what happened within him as he confronted his own mortality and chose not to let it define the remainder of his life.

On the copyright page, “Death and Dying” is included in the list of categories for this book. However, you will not find “how to die” instructions here. Instead, you will learn how one man and his family chose to live despite knowing that he would  soon die.

Working Stiff

When she applied for a position in New York City at the NYC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), Dr. Judy Melinek never imagined that decision would plunge her into the nightmare of September 11, 2001. She was at the ME office that day when the Twin Towers were attacked and fell, killing thousands of people.

Healing People, Not Patients

Health care professionals will find Dr. Weinkle’s concepts an attractive alternative to “burnout”, an encouragement to remember why we entered the profession in the first place, and a challenge to restore the personal touch that makes medicine truly an art. 

Patients will find explanations about why medical care is at times fragmented, uncoordinated, and unproductive, will understand the challenge that their own physicians face in providing effective care, and understand how they can be part of the solution. 

sharing the HEART of health

I thank my colleagues for sharing the HEART of health, both in the exam room, the operating room, the emergency room, the clinic, and at their own computer.

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . And please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page.

Thanks for exploring the HEART of health with me.

                              Dr. Aletha 

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From Practice to Politics-Doctors who ran for President-the Cabinet Secretary


In 2016 I wrote about the 3 physicians who ran for President of the United States that year. None of them won but in observance of National Doctors’ Day this month I’m reviewing their stories with updates on what they are doing now.

These profiles are for your “information and inspiration”, and do not imply endorsement or recommendation by me .

Benjamin Carson, M.D., pediatric neurosurgeon

Dr. Carson , a neurosurgeon, was one of the candidates for the Republican Party nomination for President in 2016. He suspended his campaign before the convention. President Donald Trump asked him to serve in his Cabinet as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Senate confirmed his nomination.

Here are some facts about Dr. Carson taken from his 1992 autobiography
Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story which I read and enjoyed.

  1. Dr. Carson’s mother, Sonya, one of 24 children,  married at age 13 ;her husband abandoned her when Dr. Carson and his brother were young boys. An uneducated illiterate woman, she taught herself to read, and required her sons to read books weekly.
  2. While he was growing up, his family depended on food stamps to have enough to eat.
  3. At age 8, after hearing a missionary doctor speak at his church, he decided to become a physician.
  4. He had such poor vision, he was almost legally blind. His grades improved when he started wearing glasses.
  5. As a teenager, he had such a quick and fiery temper, her feared he might kill someone.
  6. Both he and his brother were in JROTC while in high school; his brother served in the Navy during the Vietnam War.
  7. In high school he played clarinet and developed a love of classical music, something he would share with his future wife Candy.
  8. He chose to attend Yale over Harvard, because Yale beat Harvard in the GE College Bowl television program.
  9. During college he worked at the Ford Auto plant and at Chrysler.
  10. He and Candy lived in Australia for one year so he could train in neurosurgery there- and his first child was born in Australia that year.
  11. His third child was born at home- and he did the unplanned, quick delivery while his mother dialed 911 for help.

The Carson Scholars Fund

Dr. Carson is president and co-founder of the Carson Scholars Fund, which recognizes young people of all backgrounds for exceptional academic and humanitarian accomplishments.

The Carson Scholars Fund, Inc. was founded in 1994 to address the education crisis in the United States. Dr. Ben and his wife, Candy were alarmed by the state of American education.

Studies showed that our nation’s students ranked #21 out of 22 countries; next to the bottom of the list in science and math. They observed that many school display cases were filled with large trophies paying tribute to their sports teams’ achievements, while honor students only received a pin or certificate.

Dr. and Mrs. Carson felt compelled to take action. They believed that if children could be taught early to excel in school, they would stay motivated and have a higher chance of educational success later in life. The Carson Scholars Fund was built on these principles.

Recognized by Great Nonprofits as a Top-Rated Nonprofit, Carson Scholars is currently operating in 50 states and the District of Columbia, having awarded more than $ 6.2 million dollars to more than 6200 scholars.

The program also establishes Carson Reading Rooms in schools across the country to encourage young students and their families to discover the pleasure of reading and to recognize the true power of learning. To date the program has established over 100 reading rooms in 14 states in the U.S. (Information found on the Carsons’ Facebook page)

Dr. Carson’s surgical career

Neurosurgery is the surgical specialty that deals with the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. Long before Dr. Carson became involved in politics, he was known for his pioneering work in brain surgery. He discusses this work in his autobiography, which was also made into a movie of the same name. In the movie, one of my favorite actors, Cuba Gooding Jr., played Dr. Carson.

Dr. Carson specialized in two difficult and dangerous types of surgeries.

In hemispherectomy  half of the brain is surgically removed as a treatment for severe, intractable seizures. It is only used as a last resort, is not always successful and can cause paralysis on one side of the body. Dr.Carson was known as an expert in this surgery.

Conjoined or Siamese twins joined at the head are rare, occurring in 1 in 2 million births.

“In 1987, Carson attracted international attention by performing a surgery to separate 7-month-old occipital craniopagus twins in Germany.

Patrick and Benjamin Binder were born joined at the head. Their parents contacted Carson, who went to Germany to consult with the family and the boys’ doctors. Because the boys were joined at the back of the head, and because they had separate brains, he felt the operation could be performed successfully.

On September 4, 1987, after months of rehearsals, Carson and a huge team of doctors, nurses and support staff joined forces for what would be a 22-hour procedure. Part of the challenge in radical neurosurgery is to prevent severe bleeding and trauma to the patients.

In the highly complex operation, Carson had applied both hypothermic and circulatory arrest. Although the twins did suffer some brain damage and post-operation bleeding, both survived the separation, allowing Carson’s surgery to be considered by the medical establishment the first successful procedure of its kind.”(from Ben Carson bio)

One Vote-Make Your Voice Heard

Dr. Carson wrote One Voice-Make Your Voice Heard with his wife Candy Carson. In it, they urge us to use the privilege and power of voting at every opportunity. Here is a link to an excerpt

YOU ARE THE PINNACLE OF POWER

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Thanks for joining me to meet and honor 3 physicians who sought our nation’s highest office. I thank them for their service to health care and to our government.

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here.

Please follow Watercress Words to meet more physicians who explore the HEART of health . And thanks for using the affiliate links in this post and on the Home page, they help me fund this blog.

                              Dr. Aletha