An American Doctor's Odyssey: Adventures in Forty-Five Countries

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by Victor George Heiser | Biographies & Memoirs |
ISBN: 0393073319 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 1/28/2015
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3 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Wednesday, January 28, 2015
I ordered this somewhat-battered 1939 hardcover online after reading about Victor Heiser in The Johnstown Flood; he survived the flood at age 16, and went on to become a doctor and travel the world! [The book itself is fairly sound, but the cover took some patching up.]

The book's quite readable, and surprised me in several ways - not least, that I don't recall hearing about Heiser before (outside the context of the boy-in-the-flood), yet he had a long and successful life, did a lot of good, and was well-respected in his profession. But apparently he didn't translate that into media stardom {wry grin}. Rather a pity, as he had quite an exciting life!

His account of the flood is terse, something to be gotten over with or so it seemed to me, before he proceeds with the rest of his life, which focused on medicine only after he'd tried his hand at a variety of other jobs. I enjoyed this look at the treatment of medical students in the late 1800s, though it was often rather unnerving - and sometimes hilarious, with lots of deliberate mind-games (on the part of the examiners and of the students - Heiser himself is quite a character) that might be familiar to today's medical students. And while the level of technology and medical science left a lot to be desired, everything Heiser learned was pretty much cutting-edge for its day, and he did his best in a variety of difficult situations.

His travels included the typical problems of callow youth in their first foray into other countries as well as the issues related to his job - trying to examine emigrants for health problems without making them too scared or angry (a bit of a trick when they're smuggling goods - the cheese-sewn-into-the-linings incident was pretty funny).

Among his accounts: he was tasked with locating the transmission vector for plague from Egypt to the US (via the rag trade, it seems) and finding a way to enforce proper fumigation (he managed it); the 1911 eruption of the Taal volcano; coming upon an inter-village baseball game in the remote forests of Luzon in the Philippines; his first ride on a motorcycle (he'd only ridden bicycles before and was... startled); the care of Filipino lepers; a visit to Australia; and much, much more. While he doesn't go into as much depth about the local customs of the many different cultures he visited and worked among (and he went to a LOT of places during his life), he does mention some aspects, and in general seems to be fairly open-minded - though now and then he makes some sweeping remarks as to one particular group's tendency to filthiness. But at one point he describes how "one of the hardest abnegations was entailed by our stipulation that the local health organization should receive credit for whatever success might be accomplished" - something that I'm sure was great for local morale and possibly for international prestige, but must have stung a bit when his people's own efforts weren't to be boasted of.

I found this entry interesting - and alarming, as he wrote it in the early 1900's: "In the United States and England societies have been founded of those whose one idea seems to be that all the ills of the world are due to vaccination." Sigh. I wonder what he'd have thought about the modern-day anti-vaccine movement - probably the same as I do.

It's not all disease and doom, of course. In one chapter he describes his first attempt at eating a mango, and it's pretty hilarious. Then there's a scene in Japan where one of his companions, sitting Japanese-fashion for too long, couldn't stand because his legs had gone to sleep - cue the concerned hosts for some leg-massage.

Oh, and this bit, from Fiji: "Then the missionaries came along. The chief had not invited them and had not been at all interested in what they had to offer. But the missionaries would not go away, even though he kept asking them to depart. Finally, the tribe had to eat a few to make them understand that they were not wanted. The old gentleman assured me earnestly and with conviction in his eye it was no pleasure to eat the missionaries; he found them extremely tough."

I get the feeling I'd have liked this guy!

Journal Entry 2 by wingGoryDetailswing at Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Sunday, June 28, 2015

Released 5 yrs ago (7/8/2015 UTC) at Nashua, New Hampshire USA

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I'm putting this book in the Medicine Chest bookbox. Hope someone enjoys it!

Journal Entry 3 by debnance at Alvin, Texas USA on Saturday, September 05, 2015
I hope to share this book with a person in my book group soon.

Journal Entry 4 by wingAnonymousFinderwing at Alvin, Texas USA on Wednesday, July 04, 2018
I have a free little library. I thought this was cool to find. One problem we have is some will clean out the library to sell the books. I have a feeling this could work as a deterrent. Plus it would be neat to see how many folks read your book and where it goes. Love the idea!

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