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Intern by Doctor X: Book Review

June 26th, 2011  |  Published in Medical School & Beyond  |  4 Comments

Intern by Doctor X, first pageIntern by Doctor X was published in 1965, but nonetheless paints an intriguing inside view of medicine. The book is written diary-style from the point of view of Doctor X, who writes about his patients (but changes their names.) In 1965, once a doctor graduated from medical school, they would complete a one-year internship before beginning to practice; in today’s terms this is somewhat equivalent to residency.

Doctor X’s “diary” is divided into sections by the rotation he was completing at the time: i.e. Surgery I, Obstetrics, etc. In the introduction, Doctor X explains that he would dictate the day’s activities into a tape recorder, and his wife would type it.

Although Intern was written over 40 years ago, I feel that the sentiments expressed by the author are still relevant. As you read Intern you experience Doctor X’s struggle for confidence at the beginning of his internship, feel his boredom as he passes through the rotations he hates, and see the relationships he develops with his colleagues. In this book you can see the conflict between nurses and doctors, and private practice doctors and hospital doctors.

Surely, some of the medical practices described in Intern have been ameliorated or discarded (in surgery rotations, for example, Dr. X describes torso-length incisions for procedures that are probably now completed with a laparoscope.) But, what really resonated with  me was the amount of information that Dr. X had to regurgitate now that he was more or less on his own, treating patients. This includes not only an condition’s presentation, but also rudimentary facts, such as the smaller dosages required for pediatric patients and what drug should be administered when a patient is going into shock. When I finished the book, I felt reassured that I am heading on the right career path, but I also realized that I need to improve my studying habits, not only to earn a place in medical school, but also to prepare myself for a lifetime of learning and practice.

I heartily recommend this to anyone who is interested in learning more about what a doctor goes through after graduation. I am not sure if Intern is still being published, but you can get the book on Amazon for as low was $0.01 (plus shipping.) All in all, this is a great deal for a book! I actually found this book at my university library–in first edition print–so the more frugal of you may want to hit the stacks.

Because Intern was written anonymously, I chose to not research the background of the author (whose actual name is revealed on the Amazon link); I wanted to experience the book as the author intended for it to be written when it was first published. If you are dying to know more about the real Doctor X there is some great information on Wikipedia article about him.

Have you read Intern by Doctor X? Like it? Hate it? Let me know in the comments!

  • Jane Moore

    just happened on a copy at an assisted living space while visiting my sister and couldn’t put it down. It was such an honest recording of this young intern’s experience and while medicine today has more advanced technology than was known in 1965 the human emotions experienced by this young intern must surely resonate with any one in his position in today’s world. A most worth while read!

    • http://www.goingtomedschool.com Jennifer Isaacs

      I wholeheartedly agree with you! There are many excellent physician authors out there, but I truly enjoyed Intern. The author has written other works of fiction and non-fiction and I’m curious to read them one day.

  • Cheap & Nothing Wasted

    Doctor X was Alan Nourse, who also wrote science fiction.
    I read it when it came out 50 years ago.

    • http://www.goingtomedschool.com Jennifer Isaacs

      It was quite entertaining!