Reviewed in this Article:

Although the pandemic has afforded us more time for reading, it has also made author promotional tours rare events. I’m here to call attention to two outstanding books, recently written by people who are friends and colleagues. Both are about the practice of Emergency Medicine. Before you close this tab, even a layperson would enjoy them. Read on. 😉

Tricks of the Trade

The first is geared toward practitioners but could be appreciated by a precocious young person with an interest in medicine. A fun textbook called Tricks of the Trade in Emergency Medicine by Dr. Michelle Lin. Michelle and I worked together at SF General Hospital (now called Zuckerberg General Hospital) in the early 2000s. She proved herself superior in every way, both as a clinician and a teacher. I remember her color-coded index cards (this was pre-smartphone!) tucked into the front chest pocket of her scrubs and her ability to shuffle through them to get the right formula, differential diagnosis, or medicine dosing for almost everything she encountered. That evolved into a teaching strategy using Post-It notes with simple illustrations to make her explanations clear as gin.

Michelle was an early adopter of social media and the founder of AliEM, an
academic teaching blog for academic Emergency Medicine instructors. If anyone you know is starting a career in Emergency Medicine, give them Michelle’s book, and not because the Foreward is written by me (wink), but because it’s one of the best teaching textbooks out there. Follow Michelle on Instagram too. She’s @michellelinMD.

White Hot Light

The second is a horse of different color. White Hot Light is the memoir of a late middle career emergency physician, Frank Huyler. Frank came to Emergency Medicine training as a writer and poet. His first book about his experiences in training, The Blood of Strangers, is a standard-bearer in medical writing. I found it especially harrowing because I was in training with him and can vouch for the accuracy of his depictions of the characters and experiences of emergency medicine in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Fast forward twenty-five years and Frank has a different view into the world of the emergency department, a little weary, jaundiced and melancholy, but his writing is still superb. Here’s an example from a chapter called “The Sleeper:”

“From a distance, the building could be anything — offices, or a factory, out in the scrub north of the city. You can see it for miles as you drive down the two-lane road, with mountains in the distance and the big sky overhead. At night, lit up from one end to the other, it gleams like a ship at sea. But it’s only up close that you can tell what it is — a hospital, built in the middle of nowhere, where the land was cheap…”

“The Sleeper,” from White Hot Light by Frank Huyler

White Hot Light is a literary meditation on emergency medicine, doctoring and the sad, strange business of being human. A great read!

Happy reading, normal life will be back before long — so knock some books off before it’s too late. If you have book suggestions about the practice of medicine or the experience of being a patient or caregiver, please leave them in the comments.

Posted by Jennifer Brokaw

Dr. Jennifer Brokaw worked for fourteen years as a board-certified emergency physician before becoming a private consultant, patient advocate, writer, and speaker on the topics of end-of-life planning, medical decision-making and medical advocacy.

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