Professors from the College of Medicine are easily depicted as professors with thick glasses staring down at medical books or a patient’s organs on an operating table. However, these professors with serious looks on their faces also spare their time to read nonfiction and have book recommendations for Ewha Voice readers.
Paul Kalanithi’s “When Breath Becomes Air”
“When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi, was recommended by Professor Kim Seong-eun. This book is a nonfiction autobiographical novel written by an American neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi. Diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in his mid-thirties, the book is a memoir of Kalanithi’s life and illness.
As a graduate of Stanford University renowned for his excellent medical skills, Kalanithi was close to completing the difficult training course for a surgeon. That was when he realized his body had been taken over by cancer which had already spread to his bones. However, rather than spending time with his family for the rest of his life, the author makes an astonishing choice of taking care of his patients and focusing on his everyday life.
Professor Kim elaborated how the book made herself think about death, which seemed so far away before reading the book. She believes the book will appeal not only to medical students but also to Ewha students who are contemplating on what it means to be alive and what a meaningful life is.
“This is a book I encountered at a time I felt stressed out due to the tremendous amount of daily schedules,” Professor Kim said. “All of a sudden, I realized that the day I desperately wanted to escape could be the day one so desperately wanted to live. The book brought me to my senses, as if shaking me up from a long dream.”
She also reminisced about her self- reflection when approaching the author’s determination and enthusiasm in the face of death. She commented that especially because Kalanithi studied philosophy and English literature before studying medicine, his perspective on life and death were very poetic which would help readers paint a clear image on abstract concepts.
When asked about her favorite quote in the book, Professor Kim replied with the phrase: “What makes life meaningful enough to go on living?”
Atul Gawande’s “BETTER: a surgeon’s notes on performance”
Professor Kim Jin-sil recommended “BETTER: a surgeon’s notes on performance” by Atul Gawande. The book covers the common question raised by doctors which is “How well should we do, considering the specialties of the profession that deals with other people’s lives?” The author answers by giving three key virtues that doctors should acquire.
The first chapter of the book emphasizes the virtue of sincerity. Professor Kim highlights that the huge correlation between hand washing and virus infection in the hospital shows the importance of faithfulness. The second chapter illustrates the responsibility of doctors when it comes to medical accidents. Finally, the last chapter elaborates the significance of manners which is in a close relationship with innovation by demonstrating different medical issues.
Professor Kim commented that in society nowadays, heavy responsibility is given to many occupations including medical jobs. Thus, she stated that the writer’s words about the concerns of occupation and the required virtues for others will be helpful for all people who are ready to launch into the world.