I just finished reading ‘Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance’ by Atul Gawande and I feel exhilarated. And somewhat inspired. I was a little nervous buying this book; I am notorious for closing my eyes the second I see a syringe on screen, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to go through a surgeon’s notes. It seemed like a nonfiction version of House M.D. (but without the arrogant doctor and the love stories).
The book is a collection of essays divided into three parts – titled ‘Diligence’, ‘Doing Right’ and ‘Ingenuity’. These seemingly mundane qualities are required for doctors to be consistently successful, the author argues. He doesn’t hesitate to admit the limitations of healthcare and the shortcomings of doctors. He asks difficult questions, such as what would life have in store for an amputee with one remaining limb and the scars of war. He manages to come across as open, honest, and forever trying to learn. The theme of the book is betterment (not necessarily restricted to doctors).
In his afterword, he lists five suggestions that he believes will make a difference in doctors’ lives. I would like to share one that resonated with me:
Write something. It makes no difference whether you write five paragraphs for a blog, a paper for a professional journal, or a poem for a reading group. Just write. […] You should not underestimate the effect of your contribution, however modest.
I am a bit relieved to be done with the book though. It gave me nightmares on at least two nights (involving hospital visits gone wrong), and a full blown panic attack regarding pregnancy. Is this the adult version of Goosebumps?