Book Review: Direct Red
Wednesday, April 8, 2020
In Direct Red, Dr. Gabriel Weston writes about her own experiences as a medical student, resident, and, ultimately, an otolaryngology/head and neck surgeon (ENT).
In the beginning of her story, Weston guides readers through a ritual she performs whenever feeling faint in the OR. “Tyrian Purple. Hoffman’s Violet. And just as I am about to confess my shame and excuse myself from the table, my mantra begins to work. Direct Red”. This excerpt, where Weston summons pathology stains she learned in medical school to combat nausea, is the first of many ways Weston is able to relate to her audience.
Weston takes readers on a journey, from stories about the consequences of her own lack of experience as a medical student, to her experiences as a head and neck surgeon. Not only does she write page-turning stories about resuscitations in airports and patients saved before bleeding out, she also discusses the more solemn aspects of her experience. Weston does not shy away from the uncomfortable truths, such as the questionable lengths surgical trainees sometimes go to, in order to impress their mentors. She reflects on her pitfalls, but also discusses her victories in patient-centered care. In one story, she discusses the time a young patient undergoing a mastectomy quietly requested that a favorite mole be conserved. Her mentors laughed at this request during surgery and asked if Weston was “in the right business”. She uses this story to comment on the importance of truly listening to patients. “And at...times we doctors may deny our patients a voice through the unconscious but still brutal act of just not listening to it”.
Throughout these stories, Weston allows specific themes to shine through in each chapter, reflecting what she learned from each experience. All of this combines, culminating in her choice to create a more balanced practice that suits her lifestyle. In conclusion, Weston’s stories are tragic, exhilarating, and will strike a chord with anyone who identifies themselves as a patient ally.
Katie Oxford is a second-year medical student at Memorial University of Newfoundland. She is originally from New Brunswick, Canada, and has earned a Bachelor of Medical Science from Dalhousie university. Currently, Katie’s research focuses on 3D printing models for surgical teaching, and patient centred care approaches in Canada. In her free time, Katie runs a small painting business and acts as the president of the Mun Med AWS Chapter. You can find her on instagram @katieoxford_.