Medical mysteries are solved in this book: how doctors do their detective work

By LYNETTE BRASFIELD

With Medical Investigation 101, Dr. Russ Hill has written a book that every self-respecting hypochondriac should avoid like, well, the plague. 

Not really. In fact, this down-to-earth book may well calm the minds of the health-anxious, because many symptoms turn out to have quite innocuous causes.

Either way, it’s a great read and a handy book to have around when you injure yourself or a family member falls ill.

In clear and convincing prose, Hill, a retired podiatrist, presents a variety of medical conditions and symptoms and provides the reader with tools to investigate the cases and come to conclusions.

Young readers especially will love the way cases are presented rather like police files: Here is the situation, here are the clues, now find the culprit.

“The project was inspired by a complete absence of reading material for my students,” says Dr. Hill. “I asked my cousin, an anesthesiologist residing in Vermont, to help me write Medical Investigation 101. We collaborated by email for nearly two years; compliments from our friends inspired us to share it with the public at Laguna Beach Books and Amazon.com.” 

Doctors are, after all, detectives. They interview their patients, gather evidence, use laboratory techniques to zero in on possible suspects, and use their experience and insight to solve the case.

A fan of murder mysteries, I found myself fascinated by the story of Dorothy, who arrives in the fictional physician’s office complaining that she feels “weak and dizzy.” The investigating doctor rules out various medical conditions and then spots certain telltale symptoms, including “distinct white lines stretching across the base of her fingernails” – known as Mees lines – which are strongly indicative of arsenic poisoning. 

This seems to be the correct diagnosis.

But was somebody slowly murdering Dorothy? And if so, who?

This we do not find out. 

Of course, this book is not a crime novel, but I couldn’t help wondering, such was the power of Hill’s realistic portrayal of liverish Dorothy. (I suspect the daughter-in-law.)

I very much enjoyed learning in Medical Investigation 101, subtitled “A Book to Inspire Your Interest in Medicine and How Doctors Think,” how physicians search for the correct diagnosis. Hill’s prose invites the reader in, and while written in simple language, the content does not condescend. Gentle humor infuses the book, which is both inspiring and informative.

Aspiring doctors of all ages will enjoy Medical Investigation 101, available at Laguna Beach Books and online through Amazon.

(P.S. Dr. Hill? Please now write “The Mysterious Case of the Mees Lines” and satisfy my curiosity - what was it or who was it that caused Dorothy’s arsenic poisoning? Because, you see, right now I’m feeling a bit weak and dizzy…)