Dissecting American Health Care is published by RTI Press, Research Triangle, NC
Dissecting American Health Care
Kamerow, Douglas B.
RTI Press (160 pp.)
November 1, 2011
In this collection of essays, a former assistant surgeon general examines virtually
every major issue in contemporary health care and U.S. public health policy.
Kamerow (Professor of Clinical Family Medicine, Georgetown University) draws on
his experience as a family doctor and preventive medicine specialist for 20 years
with the U.S. Public Health Service to address research funding, regulation,
screening and immunization, health care delivery, system reform and medical
ethics. The book consists of 37 columns that appeared in the BMJ (British Medical
Journal) and 10 three-minute radio commentaries for National Public Radio from
early 2007 to mid-2011. Each is short and of nearly equal length, risking a
mechanical pace. Kamerow softens this effect and achieves some flow from essay
to essay by organizing them thematically. Topics run the gamut from grim—keeping
semiautomatic weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill—to lighthearted—
debunking holiday medical myths. A few added footnotes explain jargon suitable for
his original BMJ audience, but the book would have benefited from more. Dissecting
sometimes means skewering, as evident in such titles as “How to Waste a Billion
Dollars,” “Our Perfectly Designed Health Care System” and “Killing Me Softly” (about
the role of doctors in executions). A self-described “bleeding heart liberal,” Kamerow
offers a clear point of view without abandoning fairness or engaging in petty partisan
sniping. His allegiance to scientific evidence and better health outcomes prompts
sharp critiques of presidents Bush and Obama, as well as Pope Benedict XVI.
Columnists strive to be topical, so repackaging their work in book form is fraught
with risk for timeliness and relevance. This volume succeeds on the strength of
Kamerow’s command of the subject and choice of persistent issues. Most of the
material, even from 2007, seems remarkably current For anyone interested in health
care and its intersection with public policy and politics—and especially for those who
like their reading in uniform, premeasured doses—this book fills the prescription.