When Kannada actor Rajkumar was honoured with doctorate, a few innocent women were very upset that their favourite actor would now open a clinic and stop acting. Though his clinic would have attracted crowd of different kinds of patients, luckily, he did not open one.
There are many doctors (physicians) who have taken up different careers like trade union leaders, politicians and film actors. A practicing doctor is certainly more strained – physically and emotionally – than most other professionals. When such doctors go the extra mile to write and share their professional experiences and findings, that is a kind contribution to the society.
The last four books I read were all authored by doctors and I am glad to recommend them to my friends.
The Emperor of All Maladies by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee tells the story of cancer, its victims, survivors and those who fought it as patients, care givers, and doctors. He traces the history of cancer from 1600 BC till the date of publishing the book, trying “to enter the mind of this immortal illness, to understand its personality, and to demystify its behaviour.” This is a story where the narrator himself has been an actor too. His passion and compassion as an oncologist pours out in every episode in the book. There are many heroes in the book, fighting against one invincible villain through the ages. The story itself takes an epic dimension and does not end with the end of the book. We know that thousands of noble souls are still fighting this demon called cancer.
The Tell-Tale Brainis a different tale – a tale of our brain, spun by a brilliant brain of Dr. VS Ramachandran. Case studies replete with strange patient behaviours, amazing cures by simple low-tech approaches supported by sound theories open up a new horizon to the reader. Ramachandran used humble house-hold mirrors to cure patients of pains in their phantom limbs. His intuitions leave us spell-bound. The chapter on mirror neurons taught me a great deal about our involuntary responses to visuals. What we see repeatedly can influence our thinking, body, and behaviour in turn. We have a responsibility to choose what we expose ourselves and family members to. Illusion is reality till proven otherwise. The longer we live in illusion the greater the effort to discard it.
The Checklist Manifesto by Dr. Atul Gawande has stories set in hospitals, specially in operation theatres. In any task, a well designed checklist improves results and reduces uncertainties. At homes and in offices, this can reduce blame games and can improve relationships. In defence services world over, the way to handle operations is with processes and check-lists. In the industry, check-lists are buried in ISO or CMM process documents and read by the members only to face quality audits. If Atul Gawande found it useful in saving lives, we may find some use for them in saving projects.