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Hot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon's…

by Michael J. Collins

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2128104,890 (3.93)5
When Michael Collins decides to become a surgeon, he is totally unprepared for the chaotic life of a resident at a major hospital. A natural overachiever, Collins' success, in college and medical school led to a surgical residency at one of the most respected medical centers in the world, the famed Mayo Clinic. But compared to his fellow residents Collins feels inadequate and unprepared. All too soon, the euphoria of beginning his career as an orthopedic resident gives way to the feeling he is a counterfeit, an imposter who has infiltrated a society of brilliant surgeons. This story of Collins' four-year surgical residency traces his rise from an eager but clueless first-year resident to accomplished Chief Resident in his final year. With unparalleled humor, he recounts the disparity between people's perceptions of a doctor's glamorous life and the real thing: a succession of run down cars that are towed to the junk yard, long weekends moonlighting at rural hospitals, a family that grows larger every year, and a laughable income. Collins' good nature helps him over some of the rough spots but cannot spare him the harsh reality of a doctor's life. Every day he is confronted with decisions that will change people's lives-or end them-forever. A young boy's leg is mangled by a tractor: risk the boy's life to save his leg, or amputate immediately? A woman diagnosed with bone cancer injures her hip: go through a painful hip operation even though she has only months to live? Like a jolt to the system, he is faced with the reality of suffering and death as he struggles to reconcile his idealism and aspiration to heal with the recognition of his own limitations and imperfections. Unflinching and deeply engaging,Hot Lights, Cold Steel is a humane and passionate reminder that doctors are people too. This is a gripping memoir, at times devastating, others triumphant, but always compulsively readable.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
This is a raw, frequently medically graphic, account of his years as a resident at the Mayo Clinic. If you are squeamish, this is not the book for you. ( )
  CaitZ | Mar 20, 2021 |
A great read for pre-med students, gives first hand insight into the life of a resident. It is important for pre-med students to understand the life of a doctor is not all glamour and money and I think this book paints a picture of the stress and moral conflict that comes with being a resident. A good way to be introduced to some medical terminology as well as understand how a residency program functions. ( )
  sjl48w | Jun 21, 2020 |
I really enjoyed this book and would love to read more from this author. ( )
  zaya1 | Aug 31, 2017 |
In Hot Lights, Cold Steel, Dr. Michael Collins recounts his four years of medical residency as an orthopedic resident at the world renowned Mayo Clinic. In addition to stories about cases during his residency, Collins also interjects snippets of his life with his wife and ever growing family as well as his stints of moonlighting in a rural hospital 90 miles away.

Collins’ memoir is an interesting glimpse into the life of medical residents, an area of medicine that I think doesn’t get a lot of attention. Residents are in between medical students and practicing physicians. They know a lot of textbook knowledge, but have yet to apply it in the field. Collins’ does a good job of showing the reader how terrifying and yet exhilarating the process is of becoming a real surgeon.

Collins’ memoir is full of stories that are both humorous and heart breaking. For every silly drunk he encounters, there is the sad story of an 18 year old beautiful cancer patient. Collins’ uses these stories to also contemplate on the futility of many of the things that doctor’s do. In the end, we all go to the same place. Yet Collins’ fights the good fight because he knows nothing else. He can’t stop trying to fix things, no matter what the eventual outcome.

Hot Lights, Cold Steel is overall a solid memoir of medical residency. Some of the language is complex and may lose readers who don’t want to look up specific knee muscles. Regardless, I would still recommend the title to anyone who has an interest in personal medical stories. ( )
1 vote greeneyed_ives | Oct 13, 2013 |
Michael Collins' memoir of his years as a resident at the Mayo Clinic is heartbreaking one minute and hilarious the next. He is a credit to his Irish storytelling heritage. ( )
  lindap69 | Apr 5, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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To Patti-- Then, now, and always
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St. Mary's Hospital Emergency Room
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When Michael Collins decides to become a surgeon, he is totally unprepared for the chaotic life of a resident at a major hospital. A natural overachiever, Collins' success, in college and medical school led to a surgical residency at one of the most respected medical centers in the world, the famed Mayo Clinic. But compared to his fellow residents Collins feels inadequate and unprepared. All too soon, the euphoria of beginning his career as an orthopedic resident gives way to the feeling he is a counterfeit, an imposter who has infiltrated a society of brilliant surgeons. This story of Collins' four-year surgical residency traces his rise from an eager but clueless first-year resident to accomplished Chief Resident in his final year. With unparalleled humor, he recounts the disparity between people's perceptions of a doctor's glamorous life and the real thing: a succession of run down cars that are towed to the junk yard, long weekends moonlighting at rural hospitals, a family that grows larger every year, and a laughable income. Collins' good nature helps him over some of the rough spots but cannot spare him the harsh reality of a doctor's life. Every day he is confronted with decisions that will change people's lives-or end them-forever. A young boy's leg is mangled by a tractor: risk the boy's life to save his leg, or amputate immediately? A woman diagnosed with bone cancer injures her hip: go through a painful hip operation even though she has only months to live? Like a jolt to the system, he is faced with the reality of suffering and death as he struggles to reconcile his idealism and aspiration to heal with the recognition of his own limitations and imperfections. Unflinching and deeply engaging,Hot Lights, Cold Steel is a humane and passionate reminder that doctors are people too. This is a gripping memoir, at times devastating, others triumphant, but always compulsively readable.

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