Book Reviews

New York, Springer, 2013, 181 pp., $29.99 paperback, Kindle $16.17

Advice To The Young Healer is Richard Colgan's second edition of his previously titled Advice To The Young Physician (2009). Colgan writes with a depth of passion about the "Art of Caring" (book subtitle). In Part I, he traces the history of patient-centered physician care from ancient Greek, Egyptian, Indian, and Asian physicians through 20th century international mavericks. Part II contains numerous brief topics of sage advice for the newer physician in the areas of communication, civility, malpractice, and self-care. In a later section, Colgan presents biosketches of some of his own patient encounters that illustrate how he has applied the principles of treating "the person who has a condition" with holistic biopsychosocial care. In the final section he stresses the concept of vocational calling in medicine as a responsibility bestowed by God, with humans as his instruments of healing. Throughout the book, he traces theological roots of being a "healer" from many different religious perspectives.

The central themes of the book are aptly summarized in the book's final chapter, "The Healer." Colgan is very concerned that medical educators "teach today's young clinicians to be superb healers" and "effectively teach the art of caring." (p. 166). He defines the essential attributes of a healer as (1) the healer as a person, (2) the healer-patient interaction, and (3) healing as a vocation. He cites Sir William Osler's mention of Don Quixote as an appropriate reading for medical students, reflecting on the passion Quixote had for the quests of conquering injustice, sorrow, and hopelessness. Colgan is concerned that 21st century physicians not become merely evidence-based technicians but achieve patient healing also through the quality of the patient-physician relationship, direct observation of the patient, and understanding of familial and environmental factors.

For the resident who chooses to let himself or herself be mentored by Dr Colgan's earnest comments, they would do well to imagine his hand on their shoulder, his eyes meeting theirs, and in the shadows the hands of the many great physicians of the past reaching forward to try to touch and empower the young physician personally as well.

Lia Billington, PhD

Southern New Mexico Family Medicine Residency, Las Cruces, NM

"Advice To The Young Physician targets aspiring and new physicians with the intent to make them better physicians. It hits the mark. An effective mix of the writings of some of medicine's giants, as well as clinical experiences of the author, the book offers an historical framework and personal context to understand the attributes and attitudes of the good physician. It is a quick read that rewards the reader with a sampling of 4000 years of medical wisdom sprinkled with practical advice for the modern day doctor.. . . I do not know of a similar book currently being used in medical schools. "

"Dr. Colgan has given us a valuable and unique guide. This book is for every student and practitioner in medicine or nursing as well as all who wish to understand medicine. The author is a well-respected educator and clinician... This is an outstanding book, one which may be overlooked by many in the crush of everyday practice, but which will help many put the challenges and problems of the field of medicine into proper perspective."

Vincent F. Carr, Doody's Book Reviews

"I want to congratulate you for your wonderful and valuable book "Advice to the Healer" that I just finished reading. A short book but full of useful tips and historical information. I am passionate about the history of medicine. I liked your idea of putting together the advice of the past with the ones of the present, the great Healers of the past with the modern ones. I think your book should be a required reading during family medicine residency and it should be translated in other languages."

Alessandro Menin M.D.

"Today, when medical education short-changes basic clinical skills in favor of technology, when many young clinicians seem to view medicine as a trade instead of a calling, and when we see practicing physicians hawking their services on roadside billboards, it is refreshing to read a book that extols medicine’s rich history and traditional values."

Robert B. Taylor, MD
Professor Emeritus of Family Medicine
Oregon Health & Science University
Portland, Oregon, USA

"Award-winning professor ... offers history, practical advice and inspiration to help young doctors become healers rather than mere technicians in straight ahead prose with a liberal sprinkling of anecdotes. The first half of the book profiles inspiring physicians ... more practical matters in the second half advising on communicating well and with civility establishing a good practice, 'searching for the true poetry of life' in the midst of one's work, and facing the sometimes quixotic task of caring for and healing fellow human beings."

- CUA Magazine, Vol. 22 (2), 2010

"This work reflects the author's personal definition of the art of medicine. ... Each chapter opens with an abstract and ends with a list of references and list of further reading and resources. ... physicians of all ages and at various points in their careers would benefit from reading this book. It would make a great graduation gift to new physicians. It is readable and compact enough to fit in the pocket of a standard white lab jacket. I recommend this book ..."

- Marie-Alberte Boursiquot, The Linacre Quarterly, Vol. 77 (4), November, 2010

"Dr Colgan's emphasis on humanistic medicine molded my outlook and practice as a student. He is a teaching physician after the form of the great leaders he writes about here. He insists we remember our royal heritage, put first our duty to our patients, and honor the calling society has privileged us with."

- David A Edwards, MD, PhD, Anesthesiology Resident, University of Florida

"In Advice to Young Physicians: On the Art of Medicine, Dr. Richard Colgan reflects on the "art" of medicine and what it means in today’s culture and argues effectively for a more active and central role of it in health care training. By featuring some influential healers from ancient times to present day and drawing from personal experience, Dr. Colgan shows how there has always been recognition of the "human" side of medicine."

"This text does more than offer practical tips (which are very relevant to any young healer). It also helps to reignite a passion that exists for many who start out in training and find themselves worn down and jaded by the formal didactics and stresses that are faced, such as long hours away from family and friends, the heaviness of dealing with pain and suffering, and the culture of medicine, which at times can be cold and seemingly lacking in humanity. The reader comes to see the power of the art of medicine, that which is "outside of the scientific realm," when caring for the patient."

- Stephanie Fleegle, M.D., Second Year Family Medicine Resident, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

"....All too often, students are taught the science of medicine with less care given to the art of medicine."

"Overall, I think this book would appeal to end of 2nd year students through interns. This is essentially the time frame when students/physicians are trying to transition from the science of medicine to the art of medicine. I think that there is a need for such a book as not all schools will have someone to give students lectures or talks on the topic"

"The concept for the book - what a young physician should know - is valid, and serves to identify the audience... The book is almost two different books: There are five chapters on "great doctors" presenting historical data, selected quotes, and personal musings. The second half of the book consists of chapters telling his observations about medical education and practice. ...Dr. Colgan's writing style is conversational and personal. This book makes a contribution in it brings a useful historical context to today's medical education and practice, supported by some insightful quotations.... The book is compact, readable"

"This book . . .would be an appropriate addition to a reading list for students."

"Advice to the Young Physician provides useful clinical pearls for medical students and new interns, while providing an interesting history of medicine. In an age of technology, Dr. Colgan shares tips and advice for future doctors interested in the art of medicine."

"Dr Colgan's emphasis on humanistic medicine molded my outlook and practice as a student. He is a teaching physician after the form of the great leaders he writes about here. He insists we remember our royal heritage, put first our duty to our patients, and honor the calling society has privileged us with."