Review: In Stitches
In Stitches by Anthony Youn
Publisher: Gallery Books
From the cover:
Tony Youn grew up up one of two Asian-American kids in a small town of near wall-to-wall whiteness. Too tall and too thin, he wore thick Coke-bottle glasses, braces, Hannibal Lecter headgear, and had a protruding jaw that one day began to grow, expanding Pinocchio-like, protruding to an unthinkable, monstrous size. After high school graduation, while other seniors partied at the shore or explored Europe, Youn lay strapped in an oral surgeon’s chair as he broke his jaw, then reset it and wired it shut for six weeks.
Ironically, it was this brutal makeover that led him to his life’s calling — and the four years of angst, flubs, triumphs, non-stop studying and intermittent heavy drinking that eventually earned him an M.D. Thanks to a small circle of close friends and an obsessive drive to overachieve, Youn transformed from a shy, skinny, awkward nerd with no confidence and no clue into a renowned and successful plastic surgeon.
I was initially drawn to In Stitches by Anthony Youn when I found out that it was about the life of a medical student. Throughout the four years of undergrad, I debated long and hard on whether I should apply to medical school or dental school so a part of me was always curious of what medical school is like. Crazy as it sounds, I always had this desire to make a difference, and yes I really do want to help people, and what do people cherish more than their health and the health of their loved ones? So I knew I was going to go into the health field, but whether I was going to be a doctor, a dentist, or a pharmacist was up in the air (Eyes give me the creep so optometry school was never an option).
A word of warning before you continue, I attempted to review this book, but it looks like it turned out to gain more of my personal experience of how dental school compares to med.
While reading his memoir, I couldn’t help but think been there done that. The endless hours of studying? Check. Walking into an exam and feeling like you know absolutely nothing even though you spent countless hours studying for it? Definitely been there. I have concluded that it doesn’t matter how much you study for an exam, you are never going to feel prepared for it. Feeling overwhelmed and wondering how in the world any normal person could ever expect you to know all those details? Yup. Not a day goes by without me wishing that someone has developed a way for us to install a microchip into our brain that gives us all the knowledge we need to know. With how far technology has developed, wouldn’t you think someone has invented that by now? The drinking? You’re joking right? How do you expect us to get through the misery without alcohol? I hate to admit this, but dental school is creating alcoholics. And the crying? Oh man, don’t even get me started on the tears. I’ve probably cried more in the past year than I have in my entire life. I’ve cried while trying to perform a dental procedure on my fake patient. I feel very grateful that this patient can’t sue me. Oh the torture I put this poor guy through. I’ve cried while studying. I’ve cried after taking an exam. I’ve cried WHILE taking an exam. (Side note, speaking of exams, I’ve also laughed during an exam, but it was one of those maniac laughs. You know the laughter that comes right before your realize that this is the exam that will cause you to drop out of dental school because you know absolutely nothing on this exam and at this point a monkey could probably do better than you.) You name the situation, I’ve probably cried from it. I have friends who walked out of class and went to the restroom to cry in a stall. I haven’t reached that point yet, but there’s still three years left and who knows what will happen during that time.
And while his descriptions of medical school made me happy I’m not in his position—oh wait, that’s not true, I am in his position—his memoir was also filled with many stories that made me laugh and chuckle. Youn’s a wonderful storyteller and he had me laughing and crying throughout the book. Of course after reading the book, I realized I made the right decision in going to dental school rather than medical school. One of the reasons why I steered clear of med school was because I get attached to people too easily and you know me, I’m a crier. I cry when a fictional character dies, I cry when the stranger next to me on the bus tells me her grandmother just passed away, I cried during my dental school interview. All those awkward interviews he mentioned in the memoir, none of them could have been half as bad as my dental school interview. I probably couldn’t survive going through one of those rotation, especially if my first patient dropped dead on me. That would be my cue to run as far away from the hospital as possible.
If you’re ever curious of what it’s like to go to medical school, then I would highly recommend picking up In Stitches. It’s a funny, yet touching and emotional ride of trying to survive medical school while at the same time trying to figure out who you are and what you want to do with the rest of your life.