Book Review: Doctor Confidential — Secrets Behind the Veil

Doctor Confidential
Last month I received an advanced copy of this book. This book, Doctor Confidential: Secrets Behind the Veil by Dr. Richard Sheff, was released this past Sunday (May 1).

Dr. Sheff is a family physician with over 30 years of experience in practice. In this book, Sheff eloquently and openly shares stories that have stayed with him through the his time as a student, then as an intern, then a junior resident, and finally as a senior resident. Readers who are unfamiliar with the world of medicine will be happy to know that this book should be understood by the lay person. When the story being recounted requires the use of medical jargon, footnotes offer a clear explanation.

As a medical student, I couldn’t help but smile when reading through portions of the book recounting Sheff’s medical school experiences. At times, I had to remind myself that Dr. Sheff attended medical school a couple decades ago. Yet some things never change — and other things change very little.

One piece of advice that a senior medical student shared with Sheff, and that Sheff subsequently shares with his readers, is to remember that “Medicine is a bottomless pit. You can pour all of yourself into it, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and still not fill it up — still not do enough for your teachers or for your patients. Only you can decide when you’ve done enough.” It is short. It is brief. But it is profound. And those who have gone through medical school will likely agree with this statement. It is a pity that many hear this later than necessary. As I began reading the book, it was nuggets of wisdom like these that kept be going.

As the book continues, Sheff describes the slow, gradual change from student to doctor through many memorable stories. They are poignant stories that question the system of healthcare and healthcare education we have in place in America, and ultimately accomplishes what the book set out to do — to reveal the “secrets behind the veil.”

If you are interested in getting a look behind the scenes, I’d recommend this book. And if you are a medical student like me, I think you will enjoy reading someone eloquently express many of the feelings we experience during our clerkship years.