by Eoin O'Brien
In his memoir, A Life in Medicine: From Asclepius to Beckett, Eoin O'Brien, a cardiologist with an international reputation as a clinical scientist, recounts his life in medicine and literature. He depicts his relatively privileged upbringing in a medical family in the impoverished city that was post-war Dublin and describes his intensely Catholic schooling in St Conleth's School and Castleknock College, and his eventual rejection of religion.
O'Brien describes his training in medicine in the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin and in its teaching hospitals, the Richmond and the Rotunda, with personal vignettes of his teachers and how doctors were trained in the nineteen fifties. Moving to England to specialise as a cardiologist, he recounts, from the unique vantage point of a front-line doctor, the early development of the exciting speciality of cardiology. He was actively involved in the development of coronary care units, in which the then horrendous mortality from heart attack would be reduced with the introduction of new drugs, pacemakers and the techniques of resuscitation and defibrillation.
Back in Dublin, O'Brien describes the practice of medicine in the city, and how he and his colleagues established a research unit that would gain international recognition for the treatment of patients with high blood pressure. He traces his role in many activities, including journalism and recording the history of Dublin's voluntary hospitals, which were being closed to usher in a new era of hospital care.
O'Brien's interest in literature brought into a close friendship with many remarkable writers and artists that included Samuel Beckett, Nevill Johnson, Con Leventhal, Edith Fournier, Brian O'Doherty and Niall Sheridan and in the final section, he writes about these associations, giving unique glimpses into the lives of many remarkable people. His recollections of Samuel Beckett, alone, make this an essential text for those interested in the Nobel Prize-winning writer.
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Date of Publication: 15/06/2023