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Book and Media Reviews
September 23 2009

Return to The House of God: Medical Resident Education 1978-2008

JAMA. 2009;302(12):1346-1347. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1397

When it comes to The House of God by Samuel Shem, there is no middle ground. Readers either love the book or despise it. “Gomers,” “buff the chart,” “turf”—the novel's language is legendary. Its 13 “laws” are infamous. The tone of this rollicking story about medical internship conjures comparisons to Catch-22 rather than Arrowsmith or The Citadel. Despite its many exaggerations about life as a first-year resident in internal medicine at a prestigious teaching hospital, there remains something familiar and authentic about The House of God. The novel captures every single raw emotion of the first year of residency training—suffering and stress, cynicism and exhaustion, competence and camaraderie, inspiration and exhilaration. It is a bold book that flaunts the vulnerability, self-discovery, and struggle for survival of new physicians.

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