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Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside [Paperback]

by Katrina Firlik
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 12, 2007 0812973402 978-0812973402 Reprint
Katrina Firlik is a neurosurgeon, one of only two hundred or so women among the alpha males who dominate this high-pressure, high-prestige medical specialty. She is also a superbly gifted writer–witty, insightful, at once deeply humane and refreshingly wry. In Another Day in the Frontal Lobe, Dr. Firlik draws on this rare combination to create a neurosurgeon’s Kitchen Confidential–a unique insider’s memoir of a fascinating profession.

Neurosurgeons are renowned for their big egos and aggressive self-confidence, and Dr. Firlik confirms that timidity is indeed rare in the field. “They’re the kids who never lost at musical chairs,” she writes. A brain surgeon is not only a highly trained scientist and clinician but also a mechanic who of necessity develops an intimate, hands-on familiarity with the gray matter inside our skulls. It’s the balance between cutting-edge medical technology and manual dexterity, between instinct and expertise, that Firlik finds so appealing–and so difficult to master.

Firlik recounts how her background as a surgeon’s daughter with a strong stomach and a keen interest in the brain led her to this rarefied specialty, and she describes her challenging, atypical trek from medical student to fully qualified surgeon. Among Firlik’s more memorable cases: a young roofer who walked into the hospital with a three-inch-long barbed nail driven into his forehead, the result of an accident with his partner’s nail gun, and a sweet little seven-year-old boy whose untreated earache had become a raging, potentially fatal infection of the brain lining.

From OR theatrics to thorny ethical questions, from the surprisingly primitive tools in a neurosurgeon’s kit to glimpses of future techniques like the “brain lift,” Firlik cracks open medicine’s most prestigious and secretive specialty. Candid, smart, clear-eyed, and unfailingly engaging, Another Day in the Frontal Lobe is a mesmerizing behind-the-scenes glimpse into a world of incredible competition and incalculable rewards.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside + When the Air Hits Your Brain: Tales from Neurosurgery + Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The brain is my business," says Connecticut neurosurgeon Firlik. "Many of the brains I encounter have been pushed around by tumors, blood clots, infections, or strokes that have swollen out of control. Some have been invaded by bullets, nails, or even maggots." In these pages, a carpenter with a nail in his left frontal lobe goes home within a day of surgery; a boy develops a raging bacterial meningitis because his New Age mother gave him herbs instead of antibiotics for a routine ear infection; and an infant with hydranencephaly looks cute despite the absence of brain matter in his skull. Along the way, Firlik muses that a healthy brain has the consistency of soft tofu, and she flies solo in the OR for the first time as she saves an 18-year-old victim of a car accident who didn't buckle up. A woman in a male-dominated specialty, Firlik doesn't get worked up over minor things that can be construed as sexist; she finds that handling a patient's anxiety can be more complicated than the surgery itself, and she expects to be sued someday for malpractice. This witty and lucid first book demythologizes a complex medical specialty for those of us who aren't brain surgeons. (On sale May 2)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Katrina Firlik shatters the myth most of us hold of brain surgeons as superheroes: they're merely masters of the trade. Critics agreed that her engaging, witty insight into the profession, her layperson's explanation of complex medical terms and routine surgeries, and her compelling stories more than overshadowed the blood-and-gore factor. A few critics expressed disappointment that Firlik only touched on her challenges as a woman in the field, particularly as the first woman admitted to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's neurosurgery residency program. Others noted some self-indulgent tangents, though she amply covers her personal inspirations. Overall, Another Day provides a fascinating look into the oh-so-routine practices brain surgeons face daily.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 271 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (June 12, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812973402
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812973402
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #462,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Katrina Firlik is a neurosurgeon-turned-entrepreneur who loves to be on the steep part of the learning curve. She is co-founder and chief medical officer of HealthPrize Technologies. See her author website at and follow her on Twitter @KatrinaFirlik. She lives in Darien, CT and Palm Beach, FL with her husband and daughter. She loves great food, hopes to become an excellent cook one day, and plans to write many more books.

Wired Innovation Insights blog:

Psychology Today blog:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The brain is my business." July 23, 2006
Katrina Firlik is one of approximately 4,500 neurosurgeons in the United States. Although only five percent are women, the number is growing as more bright and ambitious females enter the field. In her book, "Another Day in the Frontal Lobe," Firlik writes about her seven years of post-medical school training which led to her appointment as Chief Resident of Neurosurgery at the age of thirty-three, and later, to a job in an upscale Connecticut hospital.

After briefly touching on the history of neurosurgery, Firlik discusses the nature of this specialty. It is a combination of science and mechanics. Unlike neurologists and psychologists, both of whom deal with the human brain, it is the neurosurgeon's task to physically heal patients who have blood clots, tumors, and other traumas that afflict the brain and spinal cord. Technical proficiency, accuracy, and speed on the part of the surgeon are all essential if the patient is to survive with minimal impairment.

The book is filled with anecdotes about unusual cases, such as the carpenter who sat placidly in the emergency room with a heavy-duty nail sticking out of his skull, and the child whose mother allowed his routine ear infection to develop into meningitis because she refused to give him antibiotics. Firlik talks about the anatomy and function of the brain clearly, using layman's terms. Squeamish readers should beware, however, since the author describes her cases in graphic detail.

Although Firlik's account is engrossing and informative enough, her writing style is a bit scattered; she routinely jumps from one subject to another. In addition, we never get to know the author very well as a person.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read May 10, 2006
By Reader
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a mother of a boy who underwent brain surgery (fortunately successful), I was naturally drawn to this title. What I hadn't expected was to find it such a fascinating and fun read. I simply couldn't put the book down. Dr. Firlik is as talented a writer as she obviously is a surgeon (and why not, how many doctors would name Raymond Carver as one of their favorite authors - most I would venture to guess, wouldn't even know his name). I learned a great deal from this book - some of which I was glad I didn't know before my son's surgery. I can't imagine anyone, whether or not they have faced neurosurgery, not enjoying this book.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, thoughtful, frank and well written June 4, 2006
In this excellent book, shaped as a memoir, Dr. Firlik somehow manages to do several things at once - paint a genuine yet engaging picture both of the neurosurgical profession and her own life, present her well thought out opinions on several related issues like end of life treatment v.s. quality of death, religion, evolution and the future of neurosurgery and medicine (without being forceful about them, backed by interesting references) and even offers advice to patients on what to expect from and how to deal with doctors. The book is a great read and I am thankful to the author for helping me vicariously live the life of a neurosurgeon and experience almost everything associated with it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Light and Breezy Medical Memoir March 20, 2007
It is really becoming quite astonishing to see the sheer amount of medical memoirs or medical autobiographies that have been hitting the book market over the last five to ten years. Having an interest in medical training as a subject and medical history, these memoirs never fail to intrigue and entertain. Another Day in the Frontal Lobe is no exception, and what makes this particular narrative more compelling is the fact that it is written by a woman, a neurosurgeon, where the profession twenty-five years ago was predominately a male domain. This is not the main focus of the text, however, as Firlik proposes, women in the profession have more or less paved the way for up and coming female (neuro) surgeons, making her experience much less troublesome. Similar to many medical memoirs, the narrative begins during the infamous residency period of training, where most of the more meaningful (and horrific) experiences occur for the doctor.

Firlik writes in a light and breezy conversational tone creating the atmosphere for the reader of sitting with her in a café drinking coffee and listening to her expound about her childhood, marriage, medical philosophy, her approach to medicine and how it developed; and her interesting personal philosophy on what life is and how she views the world. I did not expect the depth of a theologian or philosopher, but her `Nature' based views are not surprising in the least coming from a woman of science.

Horror stories are common to this genre but the author only retells a few, focusing more on the neurosurgical methods themselves and how they are developing. One of my favourite chapters is "Tools" where Firlik discusses the relatively new 3-D image-guidance technology where...
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If I only had ... a brain June 11, 2006
I approached Dr. Firlik's book with some trepidation, having undergone brain surgery a few years ago for a diving board accident of all things. I wasn't sure I really wanted to know what might have gone on when the door to my skull was opened. But I'm glad I did if only to appreciate what it takes to become a neurosurgeon. I really couldn't put this book down. From the cute but sad baby story to the question that I'm not sure is ever answered - what color is the brain? - It's nice to know someone on the other end of a scalpel appreciates another 24 hours as much as I do now.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book
If you've ever wondered what a brain surgeon does in detail, here is the book for you. Written in very entertaining style, but with a very human insight into the plights of her... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Derek Hatley
5.0 out of 5 stars important views of inside your head
wonderful writer with scientific intgensity and humor. Provides lots of insight to how we can all react under pressure and weeping
Published 3 months ago by alden m cohen
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a slog
This book contains the musings, thoughts and a few patient stories of a young neurosurgeon. I wish there had been more of the latter. Read more
Published 5 months ago by 2fizz
1.0 out of 5 stars pitiful
this book sounded promising as i have been wanting to read about neurosurgery for a while. however. this book is all about how good of a doctor she is and how she does things no... Read more
Published 5 months ago by J. Lee
5.0 out of 5 stars Neurosurgical
As a former private scrub for a neurosurgeon, I loved the book and it brought back so much to mind. Probably the best for medical readers.
Published 8 months ago by carol w. rader,
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book!
This is definitely in my top ten of books...I have passed it around through my friends and everyone loved it!
Published 9 months ago by Jessica Machovec
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughts on Firlik's book
One of the shortcomings of today's medical treatment is the lack of understanding of what is going to be done and why, on the part of the patient. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Swampgm
4.0 out of 5 stars A Sneak Peak at Neurosurgery
A Sneak Peek at Neurosurgery

In Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside by Katrina Firlik, a medical doctor, she describes her own... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Kevin
5.0 out of 5 stars Exellent Behind the Brain Read
This is a great book. It is easy to read despite full of technical information for the lay person. Her style of writing seduces the reader immediately. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Patricia Friedrich
2.0 out of 5 stars No heart
I came here to write my review and see that many of the 1 and 2 stars already say what I want to say. But I'll write it anyway so that the negative tally goes up. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Jon M
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