Katrina S. Firlik, 2006
"Controlled trauma" - a deceptively simple phrase which encapsulates what surgery really is. American neurosurgeon Katrina S. Firlik begins her book by assessing the accuracy of the similes used to describe the texture and the feel of brain. Toothpaste? Tofu? I, and most of her readers, will never know from experience, but through her lucid and insightful account of her seven-year residency, we can take an exclusive peek into the reality of her profession.
I actually want to be a dentist. Looking for something intelligent to read, I found myself in the health section of the library, quite sure that I would find nothing teeth-related. I was right, but brains are interesting too. On the back of this book is a picture of a young woman in scrubs holding a file and a cup of coffee. Her eyes are bright, and her smile is quietly confident. I took the book home and was immersed in neurosurgery's front line.
To me, this book is valuable because it's shown me the kind of person it takes to succeed in such a demanding career dominated by men. I already have a lot of respect for those willing to devote their youth to medical and surgical training, and Firlik just leaves me in awe by her commitment, compassion and acceptance of tragedy.
The last chapter is quite weird, different to the rest of the book. Firlik imagines a scene in the future, where the patient is really a "client" looking for a "brainlift". Scientifically realistic? One day, maybe. But a more immediate warning to British readers may lie in seeing the way USA's healthcare system works. It's all about the insurance. Is that what the NHS is going to end up like?
Conversational but informative, her writing is so easy to read, I'm confident to say that Brain Matters can and should be read by everyone, whatever you want to be.