Becoming a Doctor: A Journey of Initiation in Medical School

Walter M. Swentko, MD, MS
JAMA. 1989;262(7):959. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430070107044.
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Becoming a Doctor: A Journey of Initiation in Medical School, by Melvin Konner, MD, is, in a word, outstanding. It was written about an experience that takes place at the "wrong time" in Konner's life, through the senses of a 33-year-old anthropologist, learned educator-author, husband, and father. His "mistake," however, provides readers with an unparalleled, mature, and indepth review of 4 years of the travail of medical school.

While a beginning chapter is devoted to the preclinical years, "the series of endless lectures and laboratory exercises—the knowledge assembly line," and an ending chapter to year 4, a time for "consolidation, exploration, thought, and coasting," the majority of the book focuses on year 3 clinical rotations.

Although the author describes physicians as neither scientists nor artists but artisans-craftspeople of the highest order, he artistically paints procedures, conditions, and anatomy-physiology with beautiful descriptive phrases. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation becomes "squeezing death out of the


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