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This is a collection of articles from a scientific medical journal that, for the most part, don’t have a thing to do with science or medicine. Why? This is how the author, R. Scott Anderson MD explains it:
“What is it about our lives that prepare us to be physicians? Is can’t simply be our education, and it had to be there before medicine was our vocation? It happens all around us every day we practice, and I don’t think it will stop when we retire. We are what we are because of the millions of tiny incidents in our lives that build up like threads woven into a fabric. That fabric of what we are is what allows us to function as the physicians we can become. It is like taking thread to make a cloth, then taking that cloth and making a garment. Medicine we think of as a white coat, but it just looks white because each thread, although it’s a different color, shines with promise and adds to the whole. I want to show it all, the threads, the fabric, all of it. Not just the coat.”
One thing we know for sure is that laughter is the best remedy for small and large-scale blues. The Uncommon Thread, Dr. R. Scott Anderson’s new collection of essays, compiled from his longtime column in the respected Mississippi State Medical Association Journal, provides bite-size laughs, aha moments, and surprises perfect for consuming in short jags.
Doctors are strangers to their patients today and it is no wonder, with the average office visit lasting between thirteen and sixteen minutes, during which the doctor barely looks up, dictates a stream of unintelligible medical lingo into his/her computer, consults their smart phone and rushes out the door (a minimum of seventeen patients per day is reportedly needed to make ends meet in 2012). At least some of the mystery is being revealed as we’re afforded a peek behind the stethoscope, with the surge of memoirs, essay collections, and daily newspapers and literary journals printing personal essays by physicians. The Uncommon Thread is a highly readable and personal collection by a doctor who rolls up his sleeves, bares his soul, and takes the reader along for a raucous, contemporary, and unique ride.
In “Envy,” Anderson introduces us to two patients in a VA hospital—both suffering from respiratory illness. In less than two pages we meet Mr. Kless and Mr. Thomas, mourn one and berate the other. “According to Plan” includes excellent parenting and life advice, though almost by accident, and humanizes Anderson in his quest for understanding through counseling.
Anderson is a son of the south but his drawl peeks out only now and again as in “Occupy Bourbon Street,” where we meet his buddy Gordon. Essays take the reader to Africa, Italy, and around the United States but Anderson wraps himself in his flag of “Ameriphilia” happy to return home: “I love the USA, I love hamburgers, and I sure do love ice in my Coca-Cola.”
There is not a boring, doctor-ly moment among the forty-plus essays here, all written in friendly, jargon-free prose. Funny but without typical hackneyed doctor jokes, The Uncommon Thread sews together a full life’s experience of family, friends, patients, travels, and just plain living in entertaining snippets.
Gather – Sheila Deeth
A collection of essays, a series of curious insights, a lively, laugh-out-loud tapestry of those uncommon threads that make a real person… Biting humor, lions with biting teeth, bright satire, odd musing’s on the naming of Tom… Yes, these essays do all hang together, somehow, like a family, bound by that glorious thread of sincere humanity.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was offered the chance to review R. Scott Anderson’s book of essays. The author’s an oncologist, so I’m curious. He’s a writer from Mississippi, so he carries that Southern literary outlook. He’s worked in the Middle East, Central America, with the NYPD, the SEALS, the Navy’s EOD community and more, so he knows his acronyms and the ways of the world. And he’s got lots of kids.
So what does he write about in his column for Journal of the Mississippi State Medical Association? Well, he writes essays. Sometimes there’s something medical about them. Sometimes they’re set in Africa and the lions are drawing close. Sometimes there are squirrels. There’s an old school bus as well, the odd car accident…
The Uncommon Thread feels like conversations with a curious friend where you quickly find yourself hoping he’ll keep in touch. Laughing over his exploits and disasters, listening as he turns serious, plotting as the threads run wild and wondering how they’ll come back together… Okay, I didn’t love every piece, but I certainly loved the book. I even laughed out loud during the soccer on TV—what heresy!