If you enjoy reading about the history of medicine, two recent books might be of interest. Written by Kenneth M. Ludmerer, “Let Me Heal: The Opportunity to Preserve Excellence in American Medicine” describes the history of medical education in the U.S. from the days before formalized educational standards to today’s educational structure. The second book, “Surgeon General’s Warning: How Politics Crippled the Nation’s Doctor” written by Mike Stobbe, describes the advent of the position of Surgeon General and a history of the position from those who have held the office and their accomplishments or lack thereof.

“Let Me Heal: The Opportunity to Preserve Excellence in American Medicine”

Kenneth M. Ludmerer successfully weaves together the arc of medical education with the societal values and historical events of the day to paint a firm understanding of the evolution of medical training in the U.S. This story spans the days when young doctors sought practical clinical experiences through the development of the first residency program at Johns Hopkins, the evolution of match day, and the rise of clinical specialists. Throughout, Ludmerer reminds readers of the ongoing struggle for balance between the educational needs of medical students and the clinical needs of the institutions in which they train.

“Surgeon General’s Warning: How Politics Crippled the Nation’s Doctor”

“The Office of the U.S. Surgeon General was created simply as a house-cleaning administrator for a beleaguered string of marine hospitals. But the first Surgeon General, John Woodworth, was an ambitious Civil War veteran with bigger plans” (p.10). And, so begins, the story of this position known as U.S. Surgeon General.

Author Mike Stobbe traces the historical beginnings, rise in power and prominence of the position, the on-and-off jockeying with other governmental positions, and the current lack of power. Indeed, these days many U.S. citizens likely do not know the name of “our nation’s doctor.” Stobbe tells the story of the U.S. Surgeon General through the characters who have held the office. Introducing each with information including how he or she arrived at the position, his or her passions, strengths and weaknesses, and his or her experiences while holding the position. In addition, the author provides readers with an understanding of the legal, social and political developments that occurred during each tenure which may have contributed to the effectiveness, or not, of the position at that time in history.

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