"Here is the brilliance of this book: we readers can see, can feel, can be assured of these proto-doctors’ great and now not wordless awe inspired by our human frame. We know, now, that these future doctors kneel in prayer in front of the body, our bodies, to whose health they commit their lives. Let no one fear, when faced with an indifferent or cold doctor, that there never beat a warm human heart in that chest. The heart beat, and it beat in resonance with or even for the now still heart of his or her anatomy cadaver. If only we can keep alive that warmth and awe, our medicine will be transformed. This is what this book will do."
—Rita Charon, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Clinical Medicine and Director, Program in Narrative Medicine, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University
"One is never the same after Gross Anatomy class. Sandra Bertman’s One Breath Apart is a collective diary of the medical profession’s time-honored right-of-passage and a tribute to one of the sacred privileges accorded physicians-in-training. This delightful book is at turns poignant, profound, earnest, and awkward, just like the first year medical students, who are its subjects and contributing authors."
—Ira Byock, M.D., Professor, Dartmouth Medical School, Author Dying Well and The Four Things That Matter Most
"Perhaps by serendipity, I obtained a copy of the book at my medical school, the Medical College of Wisconsin. Just a tremendous book. I wish I had it during my medical school years, 1967-1971."
—H. Steven Moffic, M.D., Department of Psychiatry, Medical College of Wisconsin
"That anatomy lab! The memory remains forever in every doctor. This book helps remove the scariness and increases the true humanity of the experience."
—Eric J. Cassell, M.D., Author of The Nature of Suffering and the Goals of Medicine
"Alternately moving and thought provoking, this verbal and visual record of what medical students confront not only in the body, but also in themselves teach lessons in humanity as well as in anatomy. I recommend this book as a guide to this intimate journey, as relevant in broader death education settings as in a medical school curriculum."
—Robert A. Neimeyer, Ph.D., Editor, Death Studies and Author, Lessons of Loss: A Guide to Coping
"I strongly recommend that every student read One Breath Apart before they enter into the area of human dissection. While this area is one of the most challenging of the health professions, the knowledge gained separates the health professional from all others. This book introduces this very important but delicate topic in a profoundly visual way. The images in this book truly serve the saying well, that a picture is worth a thousand words."
—Roy Lee Aldridge Jr., P.T., Ed.D., Associate Professor of Physical Therapy, Arkansas State University, Jonesboro Arkansas
"This unusual book was compiled by Bertman (psychology, University of Massachusetts) from thoughts and sketches made by first year medical students upon facing their first cadaver. The intent is to prepare the students for the fact that they will be cutting into a person who used to be alive. In order to learn what they need to from the body, students cannot be frozen in horror or sympathy for the deceased. And yet, in order to become good doctors, they can't lose their humanity. It's a greasy tightrope. The comments and, even more, the drawings show the conflict the students face. This is an excellent starting point for students who need to discuss their feelings about dissection and also for those who may be considering donating their bodies but don't like the idea of being treated without respect."
—Annotation ©2009 Book News Inc. (http://www.booknews.com) Portland, OR
DEATH STUDIES, 2010
Learning from the Dead
"The book was put together for medical students, to help them to confront the anxieties, fears, discomforts, ambivalences, ethical concerns, and other issues of taking gross anatomy and of being medical students. But for those of us who are not medical students, it is interesting to see the path medical education takes students on regarding emotions, emotional control and expression, empathy, relationship to the dead, relationship to other medical students and the medical profession, and the balance between detachment and emotional involvement with patients and cadavers. Beyond that, and the reason the book merits a review in Death Studies, it is a book that will interest, even fascinate, anyone who is interested in how people face death. As Bertman makes clear, this is a book about how the dead teach the living. There are quite a few lessons in this book for teachers to consider.
I suppose one could also take this as an art book, because there is much in the book that, like any good art book, fascinates, illuminates, and stimulates. There are, for me, some drawings, narratives, and poetry in the book that stay with me, that I return to, that pique my curiosity or get me thinking about things I had not thought about before. Maybe it would even be a quirky but very interesting coffee table book. But for those of us who focus on thanatological issues, there is the perspective and depth the book offers about what we as professionals and scholars write about, think about, and face in our every day work, matters of life and death."
—Paul C. Rosenblatt, Morse-Alumni Distinguished Teaching Professor of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. Book Reviewer for Death Studies. Author of: Shared Obliviousness in Family Systems, African American Grief (with Beverly R. Wallace), Parent Grief: Narratives of Loss and Relationship, and Bitter, Bitter Tears: Nineteenth Century Diarists and Twentieth Century Grief Theories.