BOOK STEW REVIEW: ‘Man’s 4th Best Hospital’ by Samuel Shem

Below is the latest Book Stew Review from Eileen MacDougall, the host of the 80+ episodes of Book Stew, a 30-minute video and podcast devoted to writing in all forms, featuring authors, playwrights, voice artists, and journalists.

‘Man’s 4th Best Hospital’ by Samuel Shem

If you have never read “The House of God,” funniest book ever penned by a doctor for a general audience, please do so before picking up this 42-years-later-sequel.

Boston readers will immediately recognize Mass General and Brigham and Women’s (the former Partners consortium, unsuccessful and now abandoned) as the fictional BUDDIES, a messy medical morass of profit-driven excess.

The hero attending physician of the prior book’s setting (Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital, now also part of a pustular profit pile including Lahey Clinic), Fats, had made a fortune in biotech curing dementia and is bringing back his old team to make doctoring fun and humane again.

Dr. Roy Basch, the fictitious doc using Samuel Shem as a non de plume, who is really a doctor and really Stephen Joseph Bergman – stay with me – begins to have hope again for his profession when the electronic record system’s billing component OUTGOING is disabled and the medical staff gets to spend their time learning from patients instead of hiding behind screens.

This is a complex novel that scurries off in multiple directions simultaneously, the most surprising being recognition of the harm of gender imbalance and the value of working cooperative. A worthy sequel to a true classic.

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