Friday, April 22, 2011

In Stitches: Journey to becoming a doctor (giveaway!)

In StitchesIn Stitches by Anthony Youn and Alan Eisenstock
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

(Book giveaway details at the bottom)

I continued on my Asian tour by reading this memoir by plastic surgeon Anthony Youn and Alan Eisenstock. Told with a huge dose of humor, Youn shares his experiences growing up Korean-American in the Midwest, with strict Korean parents who always expected him to get straight As and become a doctor. There was no other career path possible.

It turned out that Youn had an affinity for the medical field, and he got through college and medical school fairly easily. He must have had spectacular grades and MCAT scores to get the highly coveted residency he wanted.

I enjoyed this book much more than I though I would...mostly because of the accessible, funny writing style...and I'm always a sucker for an Asian backdrop. I had to chuckle at the obsessiveness over finding a girlfriend throughout college and med school. My girlfriends and I loved hanging out together on Saturday nights, while Youn and his friends felt like losers if they didn't have dates. I'm thinking the constant obsession with sex might be a male thing. :) And also, his stories of desperation in trying to find a woman were pretty hilarious.

I would have liked to know more about Youn's experience in residency--the book ends when he lands his residency. During his pediatric rotation, Youn met a plastic surgeon who was about to rebuild the face of an 8-month-old baby whose mother had left him alone in a trailer with a pet raccoon. The raccoon ate his face. After floundering and not knowing which specialty to choose, he decided to pursue plastic surgery. I found this story to be so deeply affecting that I couldn't understand why Youn decided to focus on celebrity facelifts and breast reconstruction instead of pediatric plastic surgery. Guess that's where the money and fame are--Youn is a frequent guest on Rachael Ray.

When Youn's traditional Korean dad breaks down in tears a few times (when his mother was having open heart surgery, and other times when he was deeply proud of Youn), I shed a few tears.

I probably would have liked this book even more if I didn't have such mixed opinions about plastic surgery: 
  • On one hand, I benefited tremendously from plastic surgery because of my cleft lip (and palate). I had multiple surgeries throughout my childhood and adolescence to correct both defects. They were followed by two jaw surgeries in my late teens. (Youn too had jaw surgery as a late teen.) I know all too well how lucky I was to have been born when I was, where I was, and am grateful for plastic surgery and other types of restorative medicine. As we know, children born in developing countries are not as lucky. I still remember the name of my childhood plastic surgeon, Dr. Lindgren, and I am grateful for his care.
  • On the other hand, I find it highly disturbing to note the billions of dollars spent on plastic surgery in the developed world. I can understand certain forms of plastic surgery, such as breast reduction, or even liposuction or nose jobs. But the plastic surgery that bothers me most is the type done to attempt to find the fountain of youth. If someone wants to spend money that way, it's his or her choice. But to think of all the money spent, combined, and all the money used for advertising plastic surgery, it's shameful to me. What greater use could that money have gone to? I love More magazine for many of its great articles and book recommendations, but every single month its emphasis on plastic surgery is disturbing. Why can't we age gracefully and spend our money on travel or philanthropy instead? Why do Americans waste so much money on vanity?
Anyone who has been through medical school would enjoy this book; in fact, I plan to give it to my physician sister! Would you like to win a copy of this book? All you have to do is like the In Stitches Facebook page and leave your Facebook URL in the comments section of this post. (You must live in the U.S. or Canada to enter.)

Here's Anthony Youn talking about his childhood and book, in which you get a good feel for his sense of humor:


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