The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly

 

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Matt McCarthy   *   Broadway Books   *   April 7, 2015   *   336 Pages

The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly is an incredibly candid inside look at what life as an intern was like for author and doctor Matt McCarthy during his third year of medical school.

I must admit that I began this book with the expectation that McCarthy would be one of the many doctors who can’t seem to take the time to string two coherent sentences together. So I was honestly shocked to find that McCarthy is, in reality, a truly exceptional writer and storyteller. This book has wonderful flow and is structured perfectly. It was easy to follow McCarthy through his day-in-day-out routine. He includes just the right amount of detail so that his reader can understand what’s going on without getting bogged down in arduous medical jargon. I don’t have advanced medical knowledge, but I understood this book. Moreover, I never felt condescended to. McCarthy spoke to me on my level without making it obvious he was dumbing down often complicated information.

My only minor complaint is that this book stressed me out! Besides the obvious fact that, oh my God, these interns have no idea what they are doing and that frightens me, I found that McCarthy’s frantic energy of his early days as an intern translated almost too well to the page. Reading the first half of this book was difficult. McCarthy is so agitated and worried, frazzled and insecure. He is constantly rushed, constantly stressed, and I felt the tone of the book matched that. I know McCarthy aims to give an accurate description of what the chaos of his life was like, but sometimes I felt that the writing left no room to pause and breathe. As a reader, I needed a mental break every so often. Thankfully, as McCarthy becomes more comfortable and competent in his crazy environment, the book also becomes a bit more calm and easier to process.

When I finished The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly, I actually felt grateful that McCarthy had taken the time to record his experience. Not only did I learn a lot from reading his memoir, but I also found myself feeling a bit more optimistic about doctors in general. It is so obvious that McCarthy cares, both about the medical profession and about the people he treats. I loved how candid he was about his shortcomings and areas needing improvement, and I absolutely appreciated his desire and willingness to “do better” whenever and wherever he could. He showed a lot of humility, and I respect that. On the one hand, I want to say that this book is such a success because McCarthy is uniquely humble, dedicated, intuitive, and insightful. On the other hand, I really want to believe that most doctors are like this–because, if they were, I think we’d all be in very good hands.

3 thoughts

  1. You might add “courageous” to the list of “humble, dedicated,” etc., as it takes that virtue for a doctor just starting out to publicly lift the veil on the hospital “chaos” where interns frequently “have no idea what they are doing” (despite, no doubt, the earnest good will that elicits your “optimism”). Don’t know if I’ll get around to the book, but enjoyed the review.

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  2. Thanks for your comment, DL. I definitely agree that “courageous” could be added to the list, too. Medicine seems to be one of those hush-hush professions (like law) where people don’t really speak out honestly about it too often. It’s always refreshing when someone is willing to put the truth out there, for better or worse. McCarthy definitely earned my respect.

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