Hot Lights, Cold Steel

Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon's First Years
Narrated by: John Pruden
Length: 9 hrs and 21 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (333 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

When Michael Collins decided to become a surgeon, he was totally unprepared for the chaotic life of a resident at a major hospital. A natural overachiever, Collins' success in college and medical school led to a surgical residency at one of the most respected medical centers in the world, the famed Mayo Clinic. But compared to his fellow residents, Collins felt inadequate and unprepared. All too soon the euphoria of beginning his career as an orthopedic resident gave way to the feeling he was a counterfeit, an imposter who had infiltrated a society of brilliant surgeons.

This story of Collins' four-year surgical residency traces his rise from an eager but clueless first-year resident to accomplished chief resident in his final year. With unparalleled humor he recounts the disparity between people's perceptions of a doctor's glamorous life and the real thing: a succession of run-down cars that are towed to the junkyard, long weekends moonlighting at rural hospitals, a family that grows larger every year, and a laughable income.

©2005 Michael J. Collins, MD (P)2017 Tantor

What listeners say about Hot Lights, Cold Steel

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A cut above the rest

I have a weakness for medical "coming of age" books and have read a lot of them. I have followed a surprisingly large number of physicians' memoirs of their education. This book is outstanding in its genre. The author is sometimes vulnerable, sometimes proud but always honest. The book covers the three years from when he begins his residency in Orthopedics at the Mayo Clinic and leaves there three years later to go into private practice. He's at his best when he describes his patients and his failures as well as his successes. I was stunned to find that twice I was near to tears and there were times when I laughed out loud at his down to earth humor and observations f the people around him. The book is not only about medicine, it is about family, about struggles to live on a Resident's salary and the sacrifices that the family must make to get through the three-year residency. This is one of the best books, of the hundreds, literally, that I have listened to.

6 people found this helpful

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great for a medical mind

It is a great book for a medical mind. There were many large medical words that intrigued me and the story is very personal to anyone worried about medical school, in their training, or reflecting on the past.

5 people found this helpful

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Humor with surgical excellence at Mayo!

Starts with a 14-year-old boy in the OR and Dr. Collins must make the decision of saving or amputating his leg. This also occurs post residency at “The Mayo Clinic” and his appointment to chief resident of orthopedic surgery. Feelings are laid bare when he says I felt like the “dullest scalpel in the drawer.”

"Dr. Harding was sleeping and rounds needed to be made...and me the greenest rookie imaginable, in charge. We had fifteen patients in our service...hip or knee replacements. I just wanted to get through...without making a terrible mistake.”

---Michael J. Collins, MD

Having a baby, yearly saint Patti (wife) and the many sacrifices termed “moonlighting” to support his family of twelve children are surgical scalpel honey. Sacrifices made by Dr. Michael J. Collins do rouse emotion in the reader and we realize great suffering produces humility, empathy and bonding---and in this case a truly stellar surgeon.

Hot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon’s First Years is pretention free, and overflowing with humor akin to “House of God.” This is a fetching recount of the life of an orthopedic surgeon. Mangled legs, bone cancer and death are daily realities. Orthopedic surgery must read and my highest rating this month. Buy!

2 people found this helpful

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I think I missed the point

After finishing this book I’m left wondering who is this book for and are they expected to take from it.
It seems like this would be more suited as a personal homage to Dr. Collins’ time as a resident and those he spent it with then something to be read by medical students considering orthopaedics or for entertainment by others.
My major issues would be;
The repetitive introspective arguments feel sensationalised or dramatised. The topic of breasts and attractiveness of females is oddly frequent which does little to dispel the stereotype that plages orthopaedics.
The good;
Medical jargon isn’t shied away from and many struggles of residency are highlighted.

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Just OK

Any additional comments?

I really tried to like this doctor, but in the end I didn't. He spells out an interesting journey of trying to figure out how to be a good human being while trying to become a good surgeon. Some of the stories are gruesome so beware if you don't have a strong stomach for this kind of thing. I didn't mind that so much as the uncaring for some patient's pain and fear.

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Must Listen!

This was my first audiobook, and I was hooked after this. This is a great story and can be related to! The narration was perfect for the book, hysterical, and engaging. I would buy this book all over again. I highly suggest this audiobook.

1 person found this helpful

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Was trained in Mayo Clinic

I love the story of surgical resident at Mayo Clinic. I was trained there as surgical fellow not too long ago. It definitely refreshed my memory of my surgical training, long hour, low pay, huge pressure. But you know what? It’s worthwhile and it’s one of the best time of my life.

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Great story!!!

Listening to a book performed by John Pruden is the most personal experience one can have with a book!! John must be very particular in choosing great books to perform, since I have found all of his books a great “listen”! Be it medical terminology or fighter pilot jargon, he seems so natural that you’re right there inside the story — a participant rather than a listener!!! Great job John, great story Dr Mike!!!

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Sexist, did not age well

The way he speaks about patients, nurses, and medicine in general makes me concerned for the well-being of any people in his life. Extremely uncomfortable conversations between him and other surgeons that are very misogynistic. Also - specializing a patient. Plenty of books on his subject that do not include these unethical attitudes.

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Better than many

I enjoyed this book very much, and was pleasantly surprised to hear only two mispronunciations of medical terms: one was to call “serous,” drainage, “serious,” drainage. The other was the mispronunciation of arthroDEsis as arthRODesis. As a career medical person, if I am listening to a book and a technical word is mispronounced, it jolts me out of the world in my head. I have mentioned this in multiple reviews... oh, how I wish the producers of these books would have them audibly “proofread” by people in the field! I am sure that listeners in any area with specialized jargon will agree with me on this point.
The narrator was excellent, and did justice to the story and to the emotional content.
One of the things that the book skirts around but never mentions specifically is that when we are in school and clinical training, there is a knowledge that we really must learn as much as possible: the one thing we might slough off on might be the exact thing that presents to us at some future time.... and that could have terrible consequences- injury or illness or life consequences. There are not always do-overs in medical care.
I too put my “normal,” life on hold when I was in school and training... and I have never regretted it. To anyone wondering about this listen: do it! You will not regret it! And the hours are decreased in the past few years, but the pay is still pitiful. Many docs and also others in the field have staggering student loan balances by the time they enter the work force.

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  • Liz
  • 02-10-20

An enjoyable and insightful experience.

I found this book a really good, honest read, it shows the reality of the transition from a university graduate in medicine along the path to a qualified orthopaedic surgeon. The insight into the financial struggles, the shock of others outside the profession who believed that the letters MD after the authors name meant a large amount of wealth and seeing hundreds of beautiful women naked was far from reality (read the book to understand that comment!) The reality of making decisions that would affect the patients life forever, the long hours, poor pay all showed that being an MD was only one step to fulfilling the reality of being the orthopaedic surgeon.
The book has a good balance of the poignancy, humour, sorrow and the day to day stresses of working and studying as a junior doctor. The love and support he has from Patsy (his wife) is beautiful. I would recommend this book as it is not patronising, giving a real impression the author's life during that time and how it pop prepared him for his life moving forward.

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  • Nobbby
  • 06-20-17

A great tale of residency.

I absolutely loved this book. To be honest I didn't want it to end.
I wish there was a follow up that covered his years after residency.

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  • T. MOORE
  • 06-03-17

I really enjoyed this book

It kept my attention throughout, it was to do with the medical world, topic I enjoy.
Recommend for those who also enjoy medical storylines, factual or otherwise.

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  • Robert
  • 03-18-17

Excellent blend of cold medical reality and hot humor!

Very interesting excellently written book that is understandable by both medical and non-medical audience. Great humor. Harsh medical reality. Great performance of the narrator. One of the best audiobooks I've listened to. Highly recommend. Reminds me of my residency times.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-13-18

A fun yet gruelling journey!

Great narrator. A unique insight into the struggle to become a surgeon. Loved it! Thanks