Book Reviews

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“A career-focused memoir, this ranging book proffers predictions related to forthcoming medical advances and shares knowledgeable recommendations for bringing gaps in health-care systems as they stand.  When to Act and When to Refrain shares details not just about Stone’s own work, but about the colleagues, mentors, and students he worked with, key decisions that he made as a doctor, and some of the unusual patients whom he treated. Pet topics including medical ethics, and medical humanities also receive space In addition, he addresses how much medicine has changed in recent decades including the fact that medicine went from being a field dominated by men into a space also populated by women.”

––Foreword Clarion Review

The letters behind his name—Master American College of Physicians, Fellow Royal College of Physicia — barely scratch the surface of Dr. Marvin J. Stone’s illustrious medical career. As he recalls his decades of medical practice, teaching and research, he prefaces this engaging memoir with the hope that readers will be inspired by the successes of the past and the possibilities of the future of medicine.

—blueink REVIEW
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“The writer emerges as a medical professional of strong ethical character,
and with great pride in his chosen work.”

—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY/BOOKLIFE PRIZE

“When to Act and When to Refrain is organized in four parts: Mentors and Training, Patients, Colleagues, and Summing Up. The narrative is spiced with figures, pictures, and appendices.
Dr. Stone does a good job of integrating his stories about treating patients with cancer and interweaving the medical advances that coincided with their treatment. He displays his prowess as a medical historian and has left his mark on medicine and shared it with confidence and clarity. His memoir is highly recommended.”

—THE ASCO POST
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“Marvin Stone prefaces this engaging autobiography by stating the purpose “is to convey to anyone interested in a medical career the excitement and fascination intrinsic to becoming and serving as a physician. William Osler, MD, figures prominently among the epigraphs that preface the book’s chapters, which cover such familiar topics as medical education, bioethics, professionalism, and the role of humanities in medicine. Stone concludes by appealing to time-honored ideals and principles, for there will always be the need for judgment to help doctors decide “when to act and when to refrain. As autobiographies go, it is an easy read and remarkably uplifting. It will appeal to a broad readership and will be of value to future historians seeking to understand what will perhaps be designated “the golden age of cancer therapy,” the decades during which clinical oncology came of age.”

—THE OSLERIAN

April, 2020

Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings


Book Review:

Marvin Stone prefaces this engaging autobiography by stating his purpose “is to convey to anyone interested in a medical career the excitement and fascination intrinsic to becoming and serving as a physician. “As autobiographies go, it is an easy read and remarkably uplifting. Like the man himself the text is straightforward, orderly, engaging, and kid. It will appeal to a broad readership and will be of value to future historians seeking to understand what will perhaps be designated “the golden age of can therapy,” the decades during which clinical oncology came of age.


Suggested Reading

Several books furthered my interest in medicine: Fifty Years a Surgeon1 by Robert T. Morris, The Century of the Surgeon2 by Jürgen Thorwald, and For Future Doctors3 by Alan Gregg were exciting to read. Gregg’s book was especially helpful in explaining professionalism and its importance in the practice of medicine. Later I read other books which encouraged young people of a previous generation to consider a career in medicine: Microbe Hunters4 by Paul de Kruif, Arrowsmith5 by Sinclair Lewis, and The Life of Sir William Osler6 by Harvey Cushing. Cushing had been a houseofficer at Johns Hopkins and a next-door neighbor of Osler’s. I would still recommend these works to budding physicians except to replace Cushing’s biography of Osler with Michael Bliss’s monumental William Osler: A Life in Medicine,7 published in 1999, the sesquicentennial of Osler’s birth.

Throughout my life I have come across many other books that are valuable for people considering medicine as a career. The Youngest Science8 by Lewis Thomas is an exceptional memoir about becoming a doctor in the early 20th century and the experiences that influenced Thomas, the young son of a general practitioner. Other works by Lewis Thomas are also excellent, starting with his “Notes of a Biology Watcher” articles in the New England Journal of Medicine. Subsequent books include Lives of a Cell,9 The Medusa and the Snail,10 and The Fragile Species.11 On Doctoring,12 edited by Richard Reynolds and John Stone, is a valuable anthology of essays and excerpts about medicine. Bernard Lown’s The Lost Art of Healing13 is a fascinating tour through a medical career by a famous cardiologist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate[1]a who developed the technique of electrical cardioversion. In this book published in 1996, he emphasizes the human side of interacting with patients. Dr. Lown is now 96 years old and feels that medical education is overly skewed toward the biomedical sciences and esoterica. He believes that doctors need time to engage with the humanities, because they are the gateway to the human experience.14 The best one-volume book on medical history is The Greatest Benefit to Mankind15 by Roy Porter. An excellent review of medical history in the second millennium was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.16 When I was a medical student, I found a little gem called The Quiet Art17 by Robert Coope and have enjoyed it im­mensely through the years. A doctor’s anthology, it is full of delight­ful quotations from many sources. A collection of medical articles from The New York Times provides a glimpse of the evolution of modern medicine during the past 160 years.18

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