For four years, Jacqueline Marino followed three students through Case Western Reserve University Medical School, earning their trust, hearing their secret doubts, watching as they talked to patients and dissected a cadaver for the first time. Her story about their journey toward becoming doctors, which started as a series in Cleveland Magazine, became the book White Coats (Kent State University Press, $28.95). She talked with us about why we look up to doctors, how she chose her main characters and how they navigated the overwhelming and isolating task of becoming a doctor.
Q. What are people who are curious about doctors and the medical profession going to get out of this book?
A. We, as a culture, hold doctors in very high esteem because they are people that can diagnose our cancers and fix our child's heart problem. We think if you become a doctor, you must be a really smart person who has gone through incredible training. But why do we have that belief? Anybody who wonders about that will get something from this book. They will be able to see the process that someone goes through.
Q. What did you discover?
A. All of the students said at some point, "I don't know how I'm going to do this." The amount of medical knowledge is so vast. The best thing that they learn is how to think like a doctor. They learn how to ask the right questions and how to find the right answers.
Q. What did you learn about Case Medical School's place in the medical profession?
A. It's a very well-regarded medical school. In the U.S. News and World Report rankings, they were 24th in research and 34th in primary care. When I started doing this project in 2005, then-dean [Ralph] Horwitz decided he was going to revamp the curriculum and marry public health to medical education. The group that I followed, they were the guinea pigs. They were the first group to have to deal with shortened teaching time and the thesis.
Q. If you were a doctor, what kind of doctor would you want to be?
A. I really enjoyed my time in labor and delivery. I was pregnant at the time myself. To see a birth from that perspective really made me think about how wonderful being an OB-GYN would be.