Brought to you by the students of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
By Stephanie Benjamin
On page one of her autobiography This Won’t Hurt a Bit (and other white lies): My education in Medicine and Motherhood, we meet Michelle Au as she is several fingers deep into the anus of a 300 pound 85 year old man in her attempt to collect a stool sample. Welcome to medical school everyone. This is what we have to look forward to - and this is only page one. This opening scene sets the tone of her book. It is an honest and thoughtful look at Dr. Au’s journey through medical school, residency, marriage, and children.
It is easy for medical students to relate to this book and to Dr. Au. Her writing style is straightforward and detailed enough for you feel that you are there with her, running alongside her through the wards with no lunch and no sleep. When she mentions changing for anatomy lab in co-ed locker rooms, I felt as if I was reading about our own class. Her stories are relatable, such as that of trying to find the motivation to go out (for example, to a Halloween post-test party) when you are completely wiped out, wanting only to curl up in bed and sleep.
Throughout the novel, some of the questions she struggles with are: How will I survive medical school? What residency should I choose? What should I do when I realize I hate my residency? When is a good time to start a family? (Apparently, the answer is never). With two physicians in the family, whose job takes priority when it comes to job offers in different cities? How can you be in two places at once?
Dr. Au’s writing allows you to empathize with her struggles with each of those questions. There are times when she literally needs to be in two places at once and you can feel the responsibility ripping her in half. The most frightening part about reading those chapters was realizing that those scenes will be played out in our own lives within the next few years.
I do not want to spoil any of the surprises of the book, but I will share my absolute favorite quote that Dr. Au mentions as she discusses how she juggles everything without giving up anything, “…just because something is hard is no reason not to do it; that, in fact, there are few things worth doing that don’t require significant sacrifice along the way.”
As the title suggests, we are not following an easy path. Reading this book gave me some insight into the challenges ahead. I felt as if I were being let in on secrets about events that will take place in my own life.
Overall, this is a feel-good book about a female physician trying to figure out how to have it all- or, how to have as much as possible. This book was a quick read and was thoroughly enjoyable. Most medically-related books (such as Better, Complications and everyone’s favorite: House of God) were written by men, so it was refreshing to read work by a female physician. Also, many other medically related books begin when the author is in residency or an attending. On the contrary, this book starts while Dr. Au is still a lowly medical student- just like us.
I highly recommend this book to all medical students because the stories she shares are so relatable. For women, Dr. Au brings up concerns about balancing family life and being successful physicians at the same time. For men, the book will help them understand some of the struggles that female physicians face daily and when they have families.
For those who want to know more about Dr. Au, she writes a blog called “The Underwear Drawer: Medical School, Residency, Motherhood, Becoming a Real Doctor, and What Happens Next” at http://theunderweardrawer.blogspot.com/. And, if you promise to return it in good condition, you may borrow my copy of This Won’t Hurt a Bit.
A review of Michelle Au's "This Won't Hurt a Bit (And Other White Lies)"
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