ALiEM Bookclub: Beyond the EDIn the way that we can be inspired and changed by the actions of others, we can be inspired and changed by the books we read. In this series, ALiEM Bookclub: Beyond the ED, we hope to introduce you to a selection of books as seen through our guests’ eyes.

Our first guest is Dr. Lewis Goldfrank, Chair of Emergency Medicine at NYU – Bellevue. He is well known as one of the founders of both Emergency Medicine and Medical Toxicology. In addition to his accomplishments within Emergency Medicine, for many he is best known as the spiritual leader of the humanistic mission of Emergency Medicine. We are excited to have him as our inaugural post of this new series.

I will give you four books of very different styles that many medical staff and nonmedical personnel have enjoyed. All are written by gifted physician writers with remarkable stories to tell about the human experience. – Dr. Goldfrank


Dr. Lewis Goldfrank

1. Right of Thirst by Frank Huyler. Harper Perennial, 2009.

51H93Q5H32L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ Although this book is fiction from the moment you begin reading until you finish—which will not be very long—you will be struck by the reality, the patients, the physician, the importance of money in medicine and the unintended consequences of a “Himalayan Rescue”. This book is essential for all physicians who travel to the developing world. The ethical dilemmas and uncertainty portrayed are invaluable for all of us every day. [Amazon link]

2. God’s Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine by Victoria Sweet. Riverhead Books, New York 2012.

41CqgvAYxoL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_A wonderful antidote for fast medicine fraught with innumerable errors and neglect of people. Victoria Sweet fights on as one of the doctors in San Francisco’s last Almshouse where patients are “cared for” as human beings when others have deemed them incurable. Sweet describes her intellectual adventure as a PhD candidate in the study of the History of Medicine. She takes joy in meeting the needs of the abandoned and neglected patients, returning some to remarkable lives. She describes in personal, eloquent terms the growth of the medical industrial complex where business strips humanism from the fabric of doctor-patient relationship. She tells the story of this almshouse and reminds us of the inspirational aspects of caring for people. [Amazon link]

3. Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks. Alfred A. Knopf, Random House LLC, New York, 2001.

51YCkSQNI4L._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_If you loved chemistry and revered Dmitri Mendeleev for his creation of the periodic table, this book is for you.  If you love Oliver Sacks writing and have read many of his books and articles this one is special. This book is often funny—the remarkable smells of chemical reactions and those of dying cuttlefish. His brilliance as a writer in exposing his life as a child during the second world war is wonderful. His passion is inspiring and eloquently presented as he becomes an inquisitive scientist while learning about the elements and how Mendeleev created the periodic table. [Amazon link]

4. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, New York 2014.

51GzTLFuAML._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_This wonderful book demonstrates Gawande’s evolution in thought as to how and why we do medicine. For many of us, our personal health experience or that of a loved one proves transformative, as it did for Gawande with regard to his father’s illness. Gawande offers critical lessons about how to make critical decisions when the evidence is inadequate and the uncertainty is substantial for the physician, the patient and the family. His analysis of the quality of life as frailty, aging and serious disease lead toward death. Will the actions we suggest give quality days, risk catastrophic complications or give days without quality for a patient? This is a vital book for everyone who wishes to think about how to face life’s great dilemmas as realistically as possible. [Amazon link]

* Disclaimer: We have no affiliations financial or otherwise with the authors, references or hyperlinks listed, the books, or Amazon.

Taku Taira, MD

Taku Taira, MD

Assistant Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine
Associate Program Director
LAC + USC Emergency Medicine Residency
Taku Taira, MD


Associate Program Director LAC+USC Emergency Medicine Residency