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Attending Children | Book Report

The book under consideration is Margaret E. Mohrmann’s “Attending Children: A Doctor’s Education”. The work is of remarkable importance for medical students who may find in it a source of inspiration following a great example of a gifted pediatrician with thirty-year experience frankly telling her stories about various patients and their families. She teaches the readers an art of listening and attentiveness that is a key component of successful treatment no matter how difficult the case is. In Chapter 4 “Being Mickey’s Doctor” from the Part I entitled “Listening” Mohrmann focuses on a peculiar case of Mickey who had “a particularly painful, refractory ear infection”. A girl turned out to have acute myelogenous leukemia, but the doctor was surprised about the way the twelve-year-old girl reacted, she got involved and showed her willingness to help. She hated being talked about that much and desperately urged to know what the grown-ups were talking about behind closed doors. Mohrmann said she remembered the way Mickey felt about the rounds. It appeared to be dehumanizing for her and she was angry, “almost spitting”. In her argument she kept using the word “dehumanizing” over and over again. The doctor confessed that it was a new experience to talk about Mickey’s diagnosis to her. Mohrmann was in good relationship with Mickey and her family but still did not know how to say the most important thing, so she thought and made a detailed account of how to explain the diagnosis to Mickey in pictures. The girl was better after the treatment and in good spirits that is why it seemed that telling her the truth was even more difficult. But the doctor brought all her courage to the sticking point and uttered: “…you have leukemia”. Rejection was replaced with recognition, however, the doctor did not give up. She knew it was a long way waiting for the girl, a hard way of acceptance. Mohrmann kept on attending the girl and monitoring her clinical course.

A medical student has to make bold and reasonable steps, be attentive and caring, gain professionalism and moral wisdom to become a real doctor being able to make good choices and answer the most challenging questions a patient may ask, such as: “Am I going to die?”


Works Cited

Mohrmann, Margaret. “Attending Children: A Doctor’s Education”. Washington, DC, Georgetown University Press, 2005. 51-77.