Staying abreast of current issues in medicine has many short- and long-term benefits for aspiring medical students. In the short-term, having an informed opinion on issues in medicine can be helpful during interviews in case a question crops up. In the long-term, understanding pressing challenges in medicine and keeping up with this rapidly changing field is vital for physicians who want to provide the best possible care to their patients and become leaders in their field. Here are five books on hot button topics in medicine.
Medical student and physician burnout are serious issues that have only recently begun to be seriously addressed in the medical community. One major effort to combat burnout in medical schools involves teaching mindfulness to medical students so they can cope with stress. In The Mindful Medical Student: A Psychiatrist’s Guide to Staying Who You Are While Becoming Who You Want to Be, Jeremy Spiegel, MD draws on his own experiences as a medical student and psychiatrist to share insights into how mindfulness can help medical students weather the physical, mental, and spiritual stresses of learning and practicing medicine. It is important that aspiring medical students understand the issue of burnout and develop resilience so they can protect themselves and their future colleagues.
Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing the field of medicine and it is important for aspiring medical students to understand how the field is changing. In particular, advances in genomics and machine learning have birthed the Precision Medicine Initiative, which seeks to customize treatments to individual patients based on their genome, microbiome, medical history, lifestyle, and diet. However, the increasingly data-driven nature of medicine has also dehumanized the physician-patient relationship. Doctors now spend more time doing computer-based drudgery than actually examining and speaking with their patients. In Deep Medicine: How Artificial Intelligence Can Make Healthcare Human Again, Eric Topol, MD (a well-known cardiologist and geneticist) sketches out how computer algorithms can actually be leveraged to facilitate physician productivity and decision-making and ultimately enable physicians to spend more time healing their patients.
Every aspiring medical student should possess a working knowledge of the US healthcare system and healthcare policy. T.R. Reid’s The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care is an excellent book for students new to healthcare policy who want to learn about the healthcare systems of other countries and compare them to the US healthcare system. Reid, a noted Washington Post journalist, uses digestible language to introduce readers to the US Affordable Care Act and his experiences seeking care in other countries (i.e., Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom). Reading this book will arm aspiring medical students with basic knowledge about the pros and cons of each countries healthcare systems and provide insight into why the US healthcare system does not yet provide universal healthcare to its citizens.
The opioid epidemic is a pressing public health crisis in America. In Drug Dealer, MD: How Docs Were Duped, Patients Got Hooked, and Why It’s So Hard to Stop, Dr. Anna Lembke (a psychiatrist specializing in addiction treatment) takes readers through a series of interviews with diverse stakeholders in this complex issue. She explores the role that even well-intentioned physicians have played in the dissemination of prescription opioids and offers a critique of America’s pill-peddling healthcare system. Understanding the role that physicians and other healthcare professionals have played in this crisis is important for aspiring medical students because it will help them learn from the mistakes of previous generations and provide better care to their future patients.
A recent uptick in anti-vaccination sentiment amongst American citizens has led to a number of highly publicized and preventable infectious diseases outbreaks in the USA. It is thus important for future medical students to understand the history of vaccine development so they can educate and protect their future patients. This topic is explored in depth in The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics, and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease by Meredith Wadman, a staff writer at Science. This book details the science behind the development of numerous vaccines that children around the world receive and the policies that led to their being deployed at scale.
Physician burnout. Precision medicine. Medicare for all. The opioid epidemic. Anti-vaxxers. Reading the five books on this list will certainly broaden the knowledge base of aspiring medical students on these hot issues in medicine today.