by Quin, John | Biography & True Stories
Published 04/03/2021 by Biteback Publishing in the United Kingdom
Hardback | 352 pages
Surgeons cut, but physicians… what do physicians actually do? And is it true that other doctors really call them ‘the magicians’? John Quin worked for thirty-three years as a physician for the NHS in both Scotland and England, specialising in endocrinology. He was told the subject was easy because ‘hormones – well, they just go up and down’.
This, it turned out, was something of an over-simplification. Days on the wards were uproariously funny one minute, infinitely tragic the next. From tackling fraudulent medical students to trying and failing to induce hypoglycaemia in Glaswegian alcoholics (all in the name of research), Dr Quin, Medicine Man is packed with vividly told tales of the joy and reward of getting the diagnosis right, the disaster of getting it wrong.
Chasing Chekhov’s two rabbits of medicine and writing, meanwhile, Quin sought solace in literature, art and music, applying the lessons of Bulgakov’s country doctor to 1980s Glasgow, where none of the patients seemed to have a full complement of fingers, and to 21st-century Brighton, dealing with the consequences of a decade of austerity measures. Darkly amusing and with a keen eye for the absurd, this sharply observed memoir is not only an acute insight into the farcical frustrations and tensions of working in a chronically underfunded system but also a timely reminder of the humanity of the NHS staff who care for us.