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‘Checklists’ in the operating room make for safer surgery, better handovers and improved patient care. Can we apply the principles we have learned since Atul Gawande and the WHO pioneered this approach to surgery to our own wellbeing as doctors, teachers and scientists, and in our relationships with colleagues, families and loved ones? Dr Julie Wei is captivating and engaging in explaining that emphatically yes, yes, we can.

And who better to write this book? Dr Wei is one of the most accomplished women you are ever likely to meet. A high-achieving and internationally acclaimed paediatric otolaryngologist, past-president of her national association, a TED speaker with a glowing CV and a list of professional achievements few of us could even dream of. Young (and not-so-young) ORLs who have heard Dr Wei speak, who have worked with her and read her research papers, will have seen a top-class surgeon, a brilliant communicator, and an inspirational teacher, scientist and administrator at the top of her game. Surely, she had a smooth and unhindered climb up the career ladder? Not so!

All is not as it seems. What could go wrong? Plenty. Behind that carapace exuding poise, surgical skill and accomplishment is a woman who struggled with displacement, bereavement, sexism, racism, bullying, depression, financial scares, litigation, PTSD, ‘second victim’ syndrome, employment struggles, a painful (but ultimately happy) infertility journey, and a severe career-threatening musculoskeletal injury.

It is this background and the struggle with adversity that makes for a such a wonderful read. The book contains a series of ‘checklists’ to help you navigate every possible career event, but don’t let that put off. It is the personalised anecdotes based on the author’s experience that make this anything but a dull series of lists. The book is full of nuggets of wisdom on coaching, mentorship, managing your finances, optimising your ‘work-life integration’ (not ‘balance’!), maintaining good mental and physical health and even managing your personal and family relationships. Most of all it is an easy-to-read expert guide to looking after yourself in a world where physician burnout is never far away. Several times during my reading, I had to pause and take a deep breath, such was the searing honesty of the author’s telling of her own personal – and not always comfortable - experiences of topics many of us just don’t want to talk about.

There are a few new books that I wish were available when I was starting my career, and this is at the top of that list. Take a break from the textbooks and learned journals and immerse yourself in this book. Enjoy the read as I did, but better still, take all the life-changing wisdom and advice you can from it and learn how better to look after yourself. Want to see Dr Wei in action? Check out her TED Talk on ‘The Hidden Dangers of the Milk and Cookie Disease’ here.


Want to see Dr Wei in action? Check out her TED Talk on
‘The Hidden Dangers of the Milk and Cookie Disease’ - click the box below
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Ray Clarke

BA, BSc, DCH FRCS, FRCS(ORL), University of Liverpool, UK.

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