When Dr. Bruce H. Campbell first set foot in a hospital as a seventeen-year-old nursing assistant, he observed the best and the worst of doctors, hospitals, and the entire health care team. These lessons returned to him and shaped his own journey as he became a surgeon. Through these well-crafted, poignant, sometimes funny, and always insightful stories, he shares what his patients and their families shared, having never forgotten what it felt like to be a beginner.
What Readers are Saying
With his willingness to delve beneath the surface, Bruce Campbell has created a deftly interwoven series of lessons gleaned from poignant moments of a fulfilling surgical career. In a warm, compassionate, and honest voice, Dr. Campbell delivers to the reader not just insights on medicine, but truths about humanity.
– Dr. K. Jane Lee, author of Catastrophic Rupture: A Memoir of Healing
In lucid and succinct vignettes, Dr. Campbell illuminates the myriad of emotions and sensations that accompany a life in surgery. These stories of persistence, camaraderie, shame, grief, guilt, and regret are told with a deep humility that springs from a vantage point of experience. These ideas serve as the springboard to discuss unique, personal insights whose wisdom is of import to anyone in the healing profession. With elegant and engaging prose, Campbell beautifully expresses the honor it is to be a physician.
– William Lydiatt, MD, Chief Medical Officer Nebraska Methodist and Women’s Hospitals and Professor of Surgery, Creighton University in Omaha Nebraska
Humorous and humble, serious and sublime, these lean essays offer a glimpse behind the surgical drape to show what it’s like to be a cancer surgeon over the course of a long, rewarding career. From Campbell’s first invitation into the “inner sanctorum” of the O.R. as a nurse’s aide while in college, through tender interactions with patients, to his projections about the profession when he is long gone, this smart, sensitive surgeon illustrates how doctors can listen to, care for, and learn from their patients. He courageously goes to the “hard places” as well as sharing those special moments that make it all worthwhile. Early in the collection, Campbell writes, “Besides being a surgeon, I am also a human being.” This beautiful book is about both.
– Kim Suhr, author of Nothing to Lose and Director of Red Oak Writing
“Over the years, I have made an uneasy truce with failure,” says Campbell in the opening pages of his debut anthology, and yet his stories are anything but. Captivating, heart-wrenching, inspiring—he chooses his words as meticulously as he conducts his surgeries.
And it’s just like a surgeon to keep you up in the middle of the night. “One more story,” you’ll tell yourself, but with Campbell’s reflections, it’s hard to stop. There’s a familiar ease with which he flourishes his pen; everything falls away, and it’s almost as if you’re sitting across the table from him as he recalls. You laugh when he laughs, you cry when he cries, and you wait as he waits. His memoir of stories is sure to become a rite of passage for future doctors and patients alike, enjoyable little tunes that all hum together in a harmony of sound.
Turning the last page of Campbell’s novel, I succumb to my own “fullness of uncertain significance”—I have been charged to seek meaning, to reflect, to sit in the silence of his reverberating truths.
– Dr. Olivia Davies, poet, writer, and dermatology resident at Massachusetts General Hospital