Melvin Konner-well-known scholar, tenured professor, respected writer, husband, and father-entered medical school at the age of thirty-three. Becoming a Doctor is his account of the third year of medical school, when students first apply the results of their endless book-learning and test-taking to actual patients in life-and-death situations. While taking the reader on his "rounds," Konner portrays candidly and eloquently that hectic, life-changing year. He points out the problems of a system that often teaches medical students to distance themselves from their patients, to focus on technology rather than humanity. As an anthropologist, Konner gives us new insights into the habits, rituals, and customs that shape the strengths and weaknesses of the medical profession today.
In an arresting and candid commentary on the medical profession, Konner, a maverick, nonpracticing member and chairman of Emory University's department of anthropology, recounts his medical school training, especially the crucial first clinical immersion during the third year. The then 35-year-old medical studentwho was also a husband and father, anthropologist and educatornoted that medical schools are hard-pressed to include in their curricula the many recent technological and medical advances; that they emphasize memorization, routine and conformity over independent judgment. Konner further charges that doctors treat symptoms, ignoring preventive measures and behavioral modification. In his impassioned criticism of how doctors are trained, he nonetheless notes, ``If I had it to do over again, I suppose I would still do it''; yet, ``I would not want my daughter or son to be a doctor or to marry one.'' Konner remains decidedly unoptimistic that the healing profession will be altered radically despite recent reappraisals, concluding with dispirit, ``plus ca change, plus ca la meme chose.'' 20,000 first printing. (August 4)