Playing Doctor

Playing Doctor

Medical School: Stumbling Through with Amnesia

Read Time: 2 Minutes

Originally destined for something in the liberal arts, John Lawrence was dead against ever being a doctor. So, to the surprise of himself more than anyone, he applied for college and began his journey of becoming a doctor. Suffering multiple major head traumas days before starting college didn’t exactly put him in pole position. With his mind generally foggy and unable to concentrate or memorise anything he was taught for most of the first year, he pressed on.

Through an interesting blend of humour, self-deprecation, and moments of uncomfortableness, Lawrence’s candid narrative is both entertaining and somewhat terrifying at the same time. A side-effect of this book is that I think it’s actually diminished my faith in doctors and my trust in that they know what they’re doing.

Why? Early in this book, Lawrence jokes:

What do you call the lowest-placed graduate in medical school?

At which point I paused the audiobook and sat there thinking. Of course, there are plenty of professional gatekeepers and scrutiny by mentors in place so even the lowest-placed graduate is competent, however it was one of those moments where you can’t help but wonder. It’s a recurring theme throughout the book, at least as far as Lawrence’s education is concerned.

Hopefully I am overthinking it, because I do have to wonder how much of the story is unflinching honesty and how much is there for laughs. Lawrence freely admits that due to the head trauma he could remember very little of what he was taught, and continued to have issues long after first year, so I choose to take the stories with a grain of salt. I suspect it is, at least in part, hyperbole for the sake of a good story.

Some of the anecdotes had me cringing, either through second-hand embarrassment or because I am a bit squeamish when it comes to real-life descriptions of medical conditions. Some had me questioning the professionalism of the mentors in charge of the cohort of medical students and had me shaking my head and laughing like when Lawrence thought he received multiple spiders bite to the genitals.

John Lawrence also narrates his own memoir and does a reasonably good job at it. Narration by the author can often be hit-and-miss, but besides a few retakes being left in, the production value was quite good. Lawrence delivers his story clearly and at an appropriate pace.

In the end, “Playing Doctor” is a humorous memoir that also shows the human side of medicine. Lawrence’s journey from under-performing student to his graduation is a reminder that behind the white coats and stethoscopes are individuals grappling with doubt, insecurity, impostor syndrome and, yes, the occasional spider bite to the junk.


Humorous, Medical
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