The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly – Matt McCarthy

Jul 19

The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly – Matt McCarthy


If you would like to get a sneak peak into the wonderful world of medical residency, this is the book for you. Dr. Matt McCarthy invites you into the land of a first year intern with this incredible novel. The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician’s First Year spoke to my soul. As many of you know, my own fantastic husband just completed his first year of Internal Medicine residency. We celebrated hard-core on June 30th, because there were definitely times when it all seemed impossible.

All medical residency positions begin on July 1st. You are then dubbed an intern or a PGY1 (Post Graduate Year 1) and you are thrown into the fire on that exact day. Dr. McCarthy actually dipped his foot into the minor league baseball pool before going to medical school; I am always interested in folks who don’t follow a predictable path. Dr. McCarthy seemed shocked, as was I, at the lack of actual useful preparation that medical school provides. You have to actually do to learn; the problem is, there are myriad possibilities for the variety of each individual patient that crosses your path. Luckily for Dr. McCarthy, he is paired with a second year resident his first month at the hospital who is equal parts cool, confident, approachable, and knowledgeable. He also happens to look like Scott Baio. ( I love the celebrity comparisons throughout the book; my husband does that as well. I had to stifle more that one giggle when I met some of these “celebrities” face-to-face at this year’s graduation celebration.) Baio is one of the good ones; the kind of doctor who teaches, encourages, and shares his expertise.

I love that Dr. McCarthy weaves humor throughout his tales. He locks down his girlfriend by “accepting a dare to ask a well-regarded diabetes researcher if he’d ever considered calling the condition “live-abetes” to give it a more positive spin.” Genius.

I also loved learning about how the scheduling works in different programs. At Columbia, Dr. Matt was randomly assigned three other interns that he moved through his entire three year program with. They worked a 30-hour shift every fourth day (ridiculous!) and would move to new rotations monthly as a team of four. He lucked out with a solid team; but what if you were strapped with someone annoying or incompetent for the full three years. Mind boggling!

McCarthy has his share of mishaps and a plethora of learning opportunities. I appreciated his brutal honesty and how he shines a light on his own mistakes and regrets. All doctors must go through these phases….”we were all wrestling with some form of impostor syndrome, unable to internalize and appreciate our own accomplishments.” He secretly worries that he doesn’t deserve to be a doctor, and that, “…the key to residency was figuring out ways to ignore those feelings without turning into a monster.”

Then, magically, somewhere in the middle of that first year, the transformation begins. The fears and second-guessing subside; the calls become yours alone. The sheer amount of patients seen and successful outcomes outweighs the cautiousness and panic. You become The Real Doctor.

I will give my own sweet husband bonus points for explaining to me the many procedures and conditions he sees at work. Thanks to that and my extensive ER watching in the 90s, I understood 99% of the medical speak in the book. I needed a little refresher on that tension pneumothorax.

If you are a doctor’s wife like me, or you are at all interested in what residents actually do (I think this book should be required reading in medical school), or you just want to walk a mile in a doctor’s shoes, I can highly recommend this book.


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