Book Review – The Surgeons: Life and Death in a Top Heart Center

Book Review - The Surgeons: Life and Death in a Top Heart Center

March 09, 2007 6:20 AM CT

The Surgeons: Life and Death in a Top Heart Center
by Charles R. Morris

The Surgeons is an intriguing glimpse into the lives and work of the heart surgeons at New York’s Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, one of the world’s top cardiac surgery centers.

Author Charles Morris provides an intimate look at the work of these virtuosos who hold lives in their hands every day. We get to know such artisans as Craig Smith, head of cardiothoracic surgery, who is well-known for doing the quadruple bypass on former President Bill Clinton; Eric Rose, a cardiothoracic surgeon and chairman of the Department of Surgery; Mehmet Oz, senior adult cardiac surgeon, well-known author of three New York Times best-sellers, and regular contributor on Oprah; and many others, whose names will be better known as a result of this book.

From his unparalleled access to attend surgeries and meetings, Morris gives us an incredibly insightful view into how these surgeons think. It’s a real-world, insider’s look at the people, problems, and politics in a major hospital. As an example, he explores the politics between the surgeons and the interventional cardiologists, and talks about how their disciplines are converging.

The book tackles a variety of topics, from how the heart works and the history of heart surgery to health care policy and directions for high tech medicine. It even explores the innovative new business models pursued by Columbia-Presbyterian. An intriguing bit of trivia that Morris reveals is that Thomas J. Watson, former chairman of IBM, made a personal project of financing and developing the heart-lung bypass machine, which is still used today in many open-heart surgeries.

Morris excels at sharing the stories of surgeries and the patients benefiting from them. We get an intimate look at patients that made it and those that didn’t. We experience the heart-rending story of four-year old Erika Maynard and her family, a story sure to tear at your heart strings. We get to go with him on a heart transplant run to secure a heart, and then see it transplanted. Morris’ writing is so visual, and the stories so real and vivid, that you actually see and feel them.

The Surgeons is a fascinating read!