Customer Review

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Light and Breezy Medical Memoir, March 20, 2007
This review is from: Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside (Hardcover)
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... "the patient's MRI scan is downloaded into a computer system in the OR, and these images are linked to a navigation wand." (p.99) This enables the surgeon to pinpoint the exact location of a tumour and create the smallest of incisions in the skull. One wonders how far medical technology will advance in the next, say, twenty-five years, the possibilities are truly endless.

Personally the more disturbing discussions came at the end of the text on the topic of `cognitive enhancement'. Technology has progressed enough where we can now implant electrical stimulators in the patient's skull to improve cognitive ability. Neurosurgeons around the planet are setting up shop, offering cognitive enhancement to the privileged and wealthy and making buckets of money. Taking this further, research is looking into creating "savants" with these techniques, enabling individuals to be virtual geniuses in specialized areas. In other words, creating "cyborgs", mainly human and part machine; science fiction as the cliché states is becoming science fact.

This is not the space to engage in debate about cognitive enhancement but it surely gives the reader food for thought and where neurology and neurosurgery might be heading.

Katrina Firlik has written an entertaining book on the subject and freely gives her advice to those considering entering the profession.
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Location: Australia

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