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Friday, March 14, 2008

Intern - by Sandeep Jauhar - reviewed by Vincent lAM

Todd Heisler/The New York Times

St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York.

Becoming a doctor, I hoped, would bring me back into the real world,” Sandeep Jauhar writes in “Intern,” his fine memoir of his training in a New York City hospital. “It would make me into a man.” The story he tells here is antiheroic, full of uncertainty, doubt and frank disgust, aimed at both himself and, sometimes, his patients. “Intern” succeeds as an unusually transparent portrait of an imperfect human being trying to do his best at a tough job.


A Doctor’s Initiation.

By Sandeep Jauhar.

299 pp. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $25.

Jauhar’s journey into medicine is driven by a swirling mix of half-reasons. Disillusioned with graduate studies in particle physics, jarred by the illness of a girlfriend and seeking a profession of tangible purpose, he entered medical school in his mid-20s with considerable ambivalence. Jauhar had always eyed doctoring suspiciously, as a “cookbook” discipline, “with little room for creativity.” His father, a plant geneticist from India who felt his own advancement was stifled by racism, had derided medicine as intellectually inferior to pure science even as he encouraged both his sons to become doctors for the sake of income and prestige.

Jauhar arrives at his residency as a sensitive and standoffish observer, though he begins to see order in the chaos. “Life on the wards was like the plasmons I had studied in condensed matter physics,” he writes, “where individual electrons, moving randomly, coalesced into something greater than the sum of their parts. There was a sort of synchronized buzz. ... In the midst of this collective excitation, I kept thinking, Why am I so lonely?”


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