Medical Memoire: Hot Lights, Cold Steel

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Parth Patel
Introduction to Medical School

Hot Lights, Cold Steel
Michael J. Collins, M.D.

Hot Lights, Cold Steel is an exciting medical memoire, written by Dr. Michael J. Collins regarding his life as a resident at the famed Mayo Clinic. This narrative of Collins' four-year surgical residency recounts his progress from an enthusiastic but inexperienced first-year resident to an expert Chief Resident. In detailing the rigorous path to a successful medical career, Collins conveys his struggles with academic challenges, familial responsibilities, professional pressures, and personal conflicts. The book opens with orientation for the first year residents. Entering one of the most recognized residency programs in the country, Collins felt completely underprepared and incompetent in comparison to his classmates—“Although I had been an excellent student in medical school, I had very little exposure to orthopedics… I had done no research, had written no papers, and had only one rotation in ortho.” Afraid of being drilled by Dr. Harding, the attending surgeon for the beginning of his stint at Rochester Methodist Hospital, Collins works relentlessly to match the level of expertise of colleagues. Through his hard work and unrelenting academic efforts, Collins begins to portray the hardships that await first year residents. He thwarts the notion that medical students learn everything there is to know about medicine in their time in medical school; instead, he emphasizes that the career itself is a lifelong commitment to the pursuit of knowledge. During his time with Dr. Harding, he learns of a poem called Little Albert which ends with the boy getting eaten by a lion and a subsequent philosophical conclusion: “what can’t be helped must be endured.” Although Collins does not specify a meaning that should be extracted from this quote, the reader can assume its relevance to the medical field; there are plenty of ailments about which doctors can do...
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