Diary of a Doctor by Dr ‘Peter’

Suzie Eisfelder

I found this book on my inlaws shelf when I was helping clean out their house. I’m fascinated by quirky books and this took my fancy. The only thing that makes this book quirky is that it was written in 1951. Medical science has progressed significantly since that year, vast changes had already been made, but things started progressing by leaps and bounds.

Two things medical things I’ll highlight that happened in 1951:

  • Henrietta Lacks’ cells were taken by a doctor in 1951 and used to totally change everyone’s lives.
  • Some scientists also synthesised a hormone which has since been put into birth control pills. I know some people don’t agree with birth control, but I favour letting women have control over their own bodies.

This book seems to have been written to help the lay person understand medical matters. It shows us one year in a doctor’s life divided up by months, with one month per chapter. There are a large number of medical issues discussed in a friendly way. Sometimes the doctor expounds to himself, other times he seems to be reassuring a patient that everything is okay.

To illustrate how things have changed drastically since 1951 I’ll talk about smoking. One young lady came in to see if she was pregnant. She wanted to ask about her diet and see if she should give up smoking. Dr ‘Peter’ gave her an idea of a good diet for her and reassured her she didn’t need to give up smoking. Apparently it mattered more that her appetite wasn’t reduced by the smoking, rather than that it would be harmful. This is borne out by my childhood. My Dad smoked. He was a dentist and I have many memories of sitting in his office when I should have been at school. I mean, I had asthma so they kept me home. But, I was off school a lot and I think my parents ran out of the ability to stay home with me. I spent many happy hours sitting in his office doing homework, colouring in or reading. In those days Dad smoked between patients. At that time there was little to no correlation between smoking and asthma. Dad stopped smoking a few years ago when he went to hospital for a coronary bypass. Funnily enough, my asthma improved dramatically, too.

At the end of every chapter you’ll find some amusing pieces of writing. Here are a couple from June:
Beauty: Beauty is but skin dope

Penicillin Theme Song: Will you love me when I’m mould

Anyway, this book is hard to find, but informative and amusing. I’m not giving you a link today.


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