BETWEEN THE COVERS

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book review photoBook Review by, Harriet P. Gross (PLEASE ADD HARRIET’S PHOTO)

Eugene Burdick and William Lederer were very smart when they wrote “The Ugly American.” They first penned it as a real-time expose of our country’s inept official representatives to foreign countries. But when they realized that no one would want to believe this, they rewrote their book as fiction. After it was published in 1951, everyone took it seriously.

Plano gastroenterologist Michael Weisberg has shown the same wisdom with his novel, “The Hospitalist.” It’s a fictionalized expose of what’s become a trend in American medicine today: specialists see patients until they need more than office visits can provide, but upon admission to hospitals, they’re turned over to the new breed of doctors now responsible for follow-up. The problem: these “hospitalists” have never seen their new patients before and don’t know them as the referring doctor does…but that doctor is no longer the caregiver.

Dr. Weisberg first introduces three characters who would seem to have nothing in common: an incredibly racist Klan member from backwater Florida; an incredibly bright little boy from the slums of Mumbai, India; and an incredibly dedicated medical student at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University. Over the course of some 300 fast-reading pages, these lives converge and interact. The results – given today’s hospitalist system, which affects them all – are not pretty. The inevitabilities include loss of moral compass, valuation of money above humanity, and even death.

This book’s characters are not highly nuanced; the reader has little difficulty telling the bad guys from the good ones, although there are a few surprises. There are also forays into events and situations that allow Dr. Weisberg to include a fair amount of sex and blue language, along with a more-than-equal sprinkling of medical terminology; he invokes lots of procedures without explanation, but you can make sense of them from context and won’t have to look them up unless you’re extra-curious. And he’s not above inserting a few bits of sly humor; for example, one of his main characters is an Indian doctor whose last name, “Givagushrai,” bears a striking – and certainly intended! – sjmilarity to a Yiddish word loosely translated as “let out a big scream”!

The author’s own medical credentials are beyond reproach; the book’s back cover proudly proclaims that he’s been named to D Magazine ’s “best doctor” list eight times, and has also achieved recognition as one of Texas Monthly ’s “Super Doctors.” And he is serious about his concern for how the hospitalist system reflects a change in U.S. medicine’s emphasis from healing to business. Michael Weisberg’s “ugly Americans” are not overseas, however; they are very much with us here at home!

The Hospitalist by Michael Weisberg, M.D., from Lulu Publishing Services, is available on Amazon in paperback at $17.99 or for your Kindle at $1.99, or as a Barnes and Noble Nook book, also at $1.99.

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About Author

Harriet P. Gross is a personal columnist, free-lance writer and editor, and book reviewer. She holds a B.A. in creative writing and secondary education from the University of Pittsburgh (her home town) and an M.A. in humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas. She has taught freshman rhetoric, advanced composition, and personal essay writing at UT-D, and writing and poetry in Brookhaven Community College’s adult program. For UT-D and the National Federation of Press Women, she has conducted workshops in English grammar and word usage. Harriet has done additional graduate study in journalism, linguistics and semantics, philosophy, and social work, and has attended the Breadloaf Writers Conference in Middlebury, Vermont, and the University of North Texas’ Mayborn Writers Conference.  In a journalism career of more than a half-century, Harriet has received a Dallas Press Club Katie Award for personal columns, and awards for columns and feature stories from Suburban Newspapers of America, National Federation of Press Women, Press Women of Texas, and Illinois Woman’s Press Association. The American Jewish Press Association has honored her with its Simon Rockower Award for personal commentary, recognizing her weekly “In My Mind’s I” column in the Texas Jewish Post. A two-time breast cancer survivor, she helped organize Dallas Jewish Family Service’s first breast cancer support group and volunteered in Hadassah’s “Check It Out” prevention program. She is also a regular story-telling volunteer at The Legacy/Preston Hollow senior residence. Harriet’s other affiliations include the Society of Professional Journalists (Sigma Delta Chi), National Society of Newspaper Columnists, Phi Sigma Sigma Sorority Alumnae, White Rock Rotary Club, and Dallas Area Mensa. She is listed in six Who’s Who publications: Who's Who in America -- in Religion -- in the South and Southwest -- in American Education -- in the World -- and the Who's Who of American Women. She pioneered the country's first community newspaper "action line" column in the mid-1960s, when she lived and worked in South Suburban Chicago, and before moving to Dallas in 1980, was named the Illinois Woman’s Press Association Woman of Achievement, an honor she also received from Press Women of Texas in 2011.  Park Forest, Illinois, has recognized her community service by honoring her as Citizen of the Year and elected her to its Hall of Fame.

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