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Monday, July 4, 2016

TREASURED OLD TEXTBOOKS

By Srianee (Bunter) Fernando Dias




I was sitting in my porch (American version of a verandah) enjoying my morning coffee, and happened to glance at the bottom of the nearby bookshelf.  I saw several old textbooks that have survived my many moves and transitions and thought that I should compare notes with my friends to see if they have saved any, and whether there were special reasons for hanging onto them.  Here is my list:

1) Anatomy, Regional and Applied by R.J. Last (Second Edition). This was first published in1954 and the second edition in 1959.  I treasure this book for many reasons.  I love the illustrations done by RJL himself, and found this book very useful during my career as a pathologist.  This is one of the books that my father bought for me when I entered Medical College.  Sadly, he died suddenly just two weeks after I started my medical education.

2) Cunningham's Manual of Practical Anatomy (Upper Limb and Lower Limb), revised by James Couper Brash (Twelfth Edition).  I couldn't bring all the volumes to the U.S., so I just brought this one along to remind me of my hard work in the anatomy lab, where I spent almost the entire first week reflecting just about two inches of the cadaver's skin. Talk about culture shock, I came from an all female school to a cavernous room filled with cadavers exuding formalin! (This book was also one that my father bought for me.)

3) Hutchinson's Clinical Methods, by Donald Hunter and R.R. Bomford (Fourteenth Edition).  I referred to this book many times over the years even though I stopped seeing patients after arriving in the U.S.  The photographs were very useful when friends and relatives approached me with weird rashes and swellings! The photos depicted clinical signs, which are no longer prevalent in the developed countries.  According to the Preface, Sir Robert Hutchinson wrote the greater part of the book at the age of twenty-five, when he was a resident at Great Ormond Street.  The remainder was written by Dr. Harry Rainy, University Tutor in Clinical Medicine at Edinburgh.  It was first published in 1897.

4) A Short Practice of Surgery by Bailey and Love (Twelfth Edition). I did not have the heart to toss out this gem because of the extensive illustrations and photographs (again!) A few years ago when I was reading "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese, I found out that the author had based one of the main characters on Hamilton Bailey: A surgeon who was missing a finger, just like Hamilton Bailey.  Verghese, in the introduction, wrote that there was a photograph of Hamilton Bailey's hand in the textbook.  I lost no time in looking for that photograph in the book, but was disappointed because it had been edited out in the twelfth edition, which was the one I owned.

When I retired from my full time position in pathology, I began giving away most of my pathology reference textbooks to younger colleagues.  There is one that I have kept, mostly for sentimental reasons.  It is "Gastrointestinal Pathology" by ParakramaChandrasoma, who was about five years junior to us in Medical College and is now a Professor of Pathology at the University of Southern California.  It is one of the best texts on the subject, with outstanding microphotographs.  He was my neighbor when my siblings and I were all very young and lived down 5th Lane, and was a playmate of my brothers.   He attended the "other" school, Royal College!  One of these days I think I will give the book away to one of my pathologist friends, because it is too good to sit idle on my shelf.







16 comments:

  1. One of our renowned surgeons used to remark that when he was visiting England he used to go to watch one of the authors operate .He said it taught him what not to do while operating.
    IA

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  2. Srianee
    Thank you for that trip down memory lane. Those were happy times overall. There were hard times , heartaches and hangovers which are now mostly forgotten and lost in the fog of time. I wonder if you read my account on Hamilton Bailey on this Blog? To me Samson Wright was a waste of space and money. I remember the Physiology book by Chatterjee - all in point form, easy to read and remember and suited me so well. Ten Teachers, Thomas Macfarlane and Davidson's text book of Medicine were under my pillow in the final year before my skills (or the lack of it) were released on the public.
    Although such a long time ago those years changed our lives forever and cannot ever be forgotten.

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    1. Thanks Nihal for your comments. I don't remember reading your contribution on Hamilton Bailey. "Cutting for Stone" which referred to him, is a beautifully written book, do read it if you haven't already. I will try to look for your account of HB. I do remember McFarlane and Davidson's Textbook of Medicine very well, and I liked it. And, I agree with you, these books changed our lives forever.

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  3. Srianee,
    My experience with text books is a little different. I did not spend much time in the library but spent many hours in the wards, examining patients.I do not think I read a single text book from " cover to cover" as an undergrad. When I was appointed as a lecturer in paediatrics, the only paediatric book I had was " Mother,your baby "written by Prof. CC de Silva and Mrs. Visvanathan (Visva's wife who was a matron). It was really a handbook meant for mothers, which we were compelled to buy for Rs 4.75 when we started the appointment with CC. The clerk, Titus Amarasinghe sold the book to us but I never got back the balance of 25 cents which Titus pocketed! Few years later, before appearing for the MRCP exam in London, I read "Practical Paediatric Problems " by Hutchinson from cover to cover.
    Sanath

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    1. Sanath,
      I didn't read any of the textbooks from cover to cover either! I'm sorry to hear about your 25 cents. It is probably worth a whole lot more today!

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  4. Srianee, thanks for rekindling memories. I loved reading text books but never read from "cover to cover" -using Lama's terminology. The only book I still possess is Walter and Israel's General Pathology, which I still think is a Masterpiece. I didn't read the full basic texts but preferred the specialist books such as De Gruchy (Haematology). Sheila Sherlock (Liver disease), Russel Brain (Neurology), De Wardener (Kidneys), Paul Wood (Cardiology- a fabulous book) etc. These are the ones that come to mind immediately but there were many more. Hutchinson was of course mandatory before facing Prof KR and I still recall how we used to make them look well thumbed by rubbing the pages on soil! In addition, we roamed the wards looking for "interesting cases" of course.

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    1. DIYA WADANA for kidneys of course.
      Walter and Israeli is truly a masterpiece - precise (despite its large size) and well presented. I must mention the complete and poetic notes of Prof OER Abhayaratne which were such a pleasure to read and digest. He made the subject come to life by his humour and lyrical descriptions.
      My only claim to fame is that I walked the same corridors as Russell Brain and Paul Wood as a Senior Registrar at Queens Square and the National Heart Hospital in London on my rotation from UCH. Their portraits are a constant reminder of their immense contribution to medicine.
      Price's textbook of medicine which was Prof KR's favourite became less popular in later years with the arrival of Harrison and Cecil Loeb.
      I too never read books cover to cover but referred to them. How my brain coped to retain all that info will remain a mystery. As for now the brain is mainly in the drain.

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    2. Nihal and Mahendra,
      I'm glad I rekindled some fond memories in both of you! As I said in my reply to Sanath, I don't think I read anything from "cover to cover" in Medical College. When I was studying for my Pathology Boards in the US, I purchased a (then) current edition of Walter and Israel and really studied it. I think it helped me tremendously. I also bought a more current edition of Sheila Sherlock, when I was practicing as a pathologist, because of my fond memories of that book as a medical student. Unfortunately, I did not save these during my last move, because I just don't have the space anymore. Aside from the books, I don't think we should ever forget the great pioneers in Medicine that you have mentioned, and our great teachers such as Profs. OERA, KR and CC, to just mention a few.

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  5. ND, I envy your connections with two great Brains,Brain himself and Paul Wood. I loved Paul Wood because he explained very clearly the genesis of cardiac murmurs (among other things). I don't retain information very well unless the rationale is made clear where possible. (This is one of many reasons why I took to Neurology- clear deductions from available facts).The Big texts on Branches of Medicine, did just that. The larger texts had to be more brief. I did read Price but not a lot. One text I failed to mention was Crofton & Douglas for Respiratory diseases. I still have a copy of this and Davidson (bought here in the UK).

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    1. Mahen, I appreciate your comments as always. I suspect that practicing physicians nowadays don't buy as many textbooks as we did, because of the internet. When new editions come out, what do you do with the old editions? It broke my heart to toss these old books into the recycling bin, but they were too old to be useful to anyone. I just did not have the space to keep them. Anything that was useful was given to my younger colleagues.

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  6. Dear Srianee,Mahendra and Nihal,
    I donated all our books( Buddhika's, 3 childrens' and mine )to the Rajarata Medical Faculty. There were more than 200 books and journals which are housed in a cupboard in close proximity to the ward so that students and doctors have free access.
    Sanath

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    1. Sanath
      Books no doubt are great gifts if not the greatest. I often read the cover and preface in library books, even if I dont read the rest!! When I see that it has been donated there comes that warm feeling of gratitude.
      "Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more." H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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  7. Mahen,
    Have to agree with you about Samson Wright. It is ok if one wants to see how research led to one thing and to another. But to get to the core information as a medical student in a department that itself was not known for publishing it really was a waste of time & a lot of effort that went into reading that volume.
    Chandy Charan went right to the core & it made physiology enjoyable.
    Of course we know some in the teaching staff did not like that book by Chatterjee.
    Similarly the advent of the surgical text book by Thomas Appuhamy & McFarlane revolutionised the preparation for the final MBBS. Remember the 60 odd percent who were victims in surgery the year before us.

    IA

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  8. Nihal,
    On tin roofs, hot on a hot day, cold on a cold day & noisy on a rainy day.How can one forget that. Of course the point was made & remains ingrained somewhere in the cortex.
    IA

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  9. Indra
    Indeed. His notes on ablutions and squatting plates are memories for us all.,I recall our trips to the sewage treatment plant in Mattakkuliya. OERA is one of the greats for his humanity and understanding of life as a medical student in the 60's. We couldn't have had a better Dean.
    RIP

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