The Kitchen Shrink: A Psychiatrist's Reflections on Healing in a Changing World
by Dora Calott Wang, M.D.

Riverhead, 2010. ISBN 978-1-594-48753-8.
Reviewed by Penny Leisch
Posted on 08/30/2010

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: History/Current Events; Nonfiction: Body Language

Do you wonder why your co-pay and insurance premiums keep going up while you get fewer services? Do you know people who do not get the care they need, with or without insurance? Do you want a person with a bachelor's degree in business deciding what medical procedures you get? Have you ever considered that the crime rate and healthcare problems may be connected? You need to read The Kitchen Shrink, by Dora Calott Wang, M.D.

Wang is a psychiatrist, writer, mother, wife, medical doctor, and compassionate human being who entered the medical profession at a time when she was often the only woman in class. As The Kitchen Shrink, she is often in the kitchen, thanks to a friend who taught her to cook. Wang cooks for the same reason others do yoga—to relax and escape.

As a psychology major, I admit that I reviewed the book out of professional interest. However, I closed The Kitchen Shrink stunned. In this book, Wang dissects the system and shows us why we are losing good doctors who really care, only to gain doctors who don't know how to practice patient-centered medicine. Wang's ability to describe what happens from the doctor's point of view, as well as the patient's perspective, brings home the reality that today's healthcare crisis affects everyone.

No one would call me a history buff, and politics has never been an area of strong interest, so it's hard to impress me or keep my attention on either topic. But Wang keeps this book as interesting as the latest novel. It should be required reading for everyone who votes, makes decisions about public healthcare, or cares what happens to his or her health in the future.

As we learn how the present system evolved, the author takes us on an eye-opening trek down the road that women trod in the medical profession, and her visits to historical places show us the world that existed along the way. Soon, many of the people who shaped history and straddled the eras will be gone, and only people like Wang will pass on their knowledge. She's remarkably forthright in her personal evaluations as well. Understanding the history is crucial to understanding where we are today and why. We need more professionals like Wang to stand up and speak out.

Don't let the psychiatric reference in the title scare you. Yes, there are a few stories about patients, but they illustrate the effects that insurance and care decisions have on everyone. Remember, she's a medical doctor too. Wang's examples make this a powerful book that the average person can understand. Your doctor faces the same realities every day. Psychiatry is only a small part of the story.

Wang collected a great deal of thoughtful, insightful information and predictions. Few people inside or outside the medical profession know as much about what happens behind the scenes, although many know bits and pieces from their own experiences. Wang took time to research, ask questions, and test the system herself.

Dora Calott Wang, M.D. is a psychiatrist who wrote for her high school newspaper and later took a leave from medical school to spend time in The English Master's Program at the University of California at Berkeley. Wang lives in New Mexico with her husband, Christopher, and daughter, Zoe, and is a professor at a medical school. She also hosts Duke City Magazine, a current affairs television talk show. Visit her website.

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