Recent surveys of medical students reveal stark conditions: more than a quarter have experienced episodes of depression during their medical school and residency careers, a figure much higher than that of the general population. Compounded by long hours of intellectually challenging, physically taxing, and emotionally exhausting work, medical school has been called one of the most harrowing experiences a student can encounter. Plumbing the diaries, memoirs, and blogs of physicians-in-training, Suzanne Poirier’s Doctors in the Making illuminates not just the process by which students become doctors but also the physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences of the process.

Through close readings of these accounts, Poirier draws attention to the complex nature of power in medicine, the rewards and hazards of professional and interpersonal relationships in all aspects of physicians’ lives, and the benefits to and threats from the vulnerability that medical students and residents experience.

Although most students emerge from medical education as well-trained, well-prepared professionals, few of them will claim that they survived the process unscathed. The authors of these accounts document—for better or for worse—the ways in which they have been changed. Based on their stories, Poirier recommends that medical education should make room for the central importance of personal relationships, the profound sense of isolation and powerlessness that can threaten the wellbeing of patients and physicians alike, and the physical and moral vulnerability that are part of every physician’s life.

Doctors in the Making is terrific. There is nothing like this book that I know of and, though Suzanne Poirier gives careful attention to establishing the validity of narratives as data, the appeal of memoirs and autobiographies is great enough to be very persuasive to its readers. The scholarship is exemplary, the work impressive, and the sum total made me want to rummage around for my old picket sign.”—Kathryn Montgomery, Medical Humanities and Bioethics Program, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

“Drawing on more than forty memoirs by students and doctors, Suzanne Poirier offers the lay reader an eye-opening insider’s account of medical education and what’s wrong with it, notably the lack of attention paid to ‘the emotional process of becoming a physician.’ If these stories reveal the shortcomings of medical training, they also point the way to reform, for Poirier persuades us the act of storytelling, incorporated into medical curricula, can promote the emotional wholeness of physicians in the time to come. Her portrait of the medical student’s acquisition of professional identity is subtle and complex, registering its psychological, ethical, and even physiological dimensions.”—Paul John Eakin, author, Living Autobiographically: How We Create Identity in Narrative

“Suzanne Poirier’s Doctors in the Making is a critical and insightful addition to the canon of scholarly work in medical memoir. It is scholarly and immensely readable, inclusive and critical. Poirier has written a book that will appeal to a wider audience curious about medical writing and a text that will speak to the heart of what medical education struggles with today. I will rejoice in being able to use it and refer to it in my teaching and writing.”—Sayantani DasGupta, Core Faculty Program in Narrative Medicine, Columbia University, and coeditor, Stories of Illness and Healing: Women Write Their Bodies

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1
1 Voices from the Emergency Room 20
2 Water from a Fire Hose 45
3 Embodiment 72
4 Power and Difference 95
5 Relationships 125
Conclusion 154
Appendix 171
Notes 175
Bibliography 185
Index 197

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Publication Details

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Pages, art, trim size
212 pages, 6 x 9 inches