An Interview with Dr. Anthony Youn, Author of “In Stitches”

Medical school often seems like serious business. Life and death situations, daunting exams, all night study sessions: it all sounds a bit heavy, no?6v7_In-Stitches

A recently released memoir shows us it doesn’t have to be this way. Through self deprecating humor and his talent for telling a good story, Dr. Anthony Youn exposes the lighter side of med school with his book In Stitches.

After receiving a copy and thoroughly enjoying it I asked Dr. Youn if he would answer a few questions about In Stitches. He was kind enough to agree and his responses are below. Enjoy and be sure to check out the book!

What was your inspiration for writing "In Stitches?"

First time out, I decided to shoot for the stars. I set out to write the definitive book about growing up Asian American, going through four years of medical school—all true, unadulterated, unfiltered, behind the scenes, warts and all—and becoming a doctor. I think, ultimately, In Stitches represents what medical school really is.  Medical school can be laugh-out-loud funny, shocking, heart-breaking, and heart-warming. That’s what I wanted In Stitches to be. I’m gratified by what readers and reviewers have said so far. They’ve called it “disarming,” “fast-paced,” “hilarious,” and “touching.”

Who are some writers you look up to and how have they influenced your writing?

I can honestly say there is no one person whom I would consider my favorite writer.  However, I’m a big fan of the depth of Atul Gawande, the humor of Wade Rouse, the imagination of JRR Tolkien, and I can’t forget my good friend (and co-writer) Alan Eisenstock who wrote a fantastic book with the late Robert Schimmel, Cancer on $5 a Day.  As you can see, I enjoy a lot of different types of books!

Towards the end of the book when talking about plastic surgery, you say "I like the variety of surgeries that you do. I like doing re-construction where you can really see changes. I love the immediate gratification. I love that you don’t have to wait for lab reports or anything else to to see the results of your work. And being a plastic surgeon is very creative, very artistic. I also believe that a plastic surgeon can change a patient’s life." With the experience you have now, is there anything you would change or add to that statement?

Not a thing.  At one time or another I considered many different specialties, including orthopedic surgery (these jocks of medicine wouldn’t be interested in a skinny nerd like me), general and trauma surgery (I nixed this one the moment I saw a sixty-year-old attending stumble out of a call room at 2 a.m. for a trauma), psychiatry (my fear of falling asleep on a depressed patient mid-session cancelled this one out), and family practice.  To me, none of these compared to plastic surgery, truly the only specialty that really inspired me.  The field of plastic surgery is so broad, with such a variety of procedures and patients to treat.  I love my field and wouldn’t change my specialty for anything.

What sort of perspective can you offer students who are struggling through medical school?

When you are done with work, do things you enjoy. As physicians-in-training, you are accustomed to delayed gratification. I think the turtle in Kung Fu Panda said it best, “Today is the present, and that’s why it’s a gift.” Find moments of happiness in medical school. And once you finish med school there is no excuse to delay. Enjoy yourself, because the worst is over.

Do you have any plans for another book?

I would love to write another book, probably about the horrors and humor of residency, fellowship, and starting a medical practice from scratch.  At this point, though, I’m focused on the release of the paperback version of In Stitches, due Feb. 14, 2012.  Once the paperback comes out, then I hope to begin writing the sequel – a real-life House of God!

Thank you for responding Dr. Youn, I am looking forward to the next book!

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