When Pauline Chen began medical school, she dreamed of saving lives. What she could not predict was how much death would be a part of her work. Read more...
When Pauline Chen began medical school, she dreamed of saving lives. What she could not predict was how much death would be a part of her work. Almost immediately, she found herself wrestling with medicine's most profound paradox-that a profession premised on caring for the ill also systematically depersonalizes dying. Final Exam follows Chen over the course of her education and practice as she struggles to reconcile the lessons of her training with her innate sense of empathy and humanity. A superb addition to the best medical literature of our time.
Focusing this intense, insightful nonfiction narrative on her experiences with patients who died, Chen presents a compelling account of her career as a surgeon. A gifted writer, she offers a perceptive look at what it's like to be a doctor at a time when the medical industry equals big business and seems to lack a human face. Taught to remove herself emotionally from those in her care, Chen finds herself in conflict with what she learns as a medical student. Her first encounter with a dead body occurs in her anatomy classan incident that is eclipsed over the years by episodes with patients whose lives she couldn't save. Chen writes unflinchingly about the accidental death of one of her own patients, a tragedy for which she holds herself accountable. Thinking back on what she has learned from these varied encounters with mortality, she gradually comes to terms with the guilt that has long haunted hera sense of regret at being emotionally absent when her patients and their families needed her. Chen also presents evidence of reform within the medical industry, as more and more physicians are acknowledging that the healthcare profession needs to be humanized. Fans of Atul Gawande will savor this timely, precisely crafted narrative.
A reading group guide is available online at readinggroupcenter.com.