Balance, Pedal, Breathe - Book Review

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Balance, Pedal, Breathe

Author: Claire Unis
Genre: Non Fiction - Memoir
Publisher: Warren Publishing, Inc
Date Published: April 12, 2022
ISBN-10: 1957723092
ISBN-13: 978-1957723099

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GoodReads Rating:
4.78

Book Review of :  Balance, Pedal, Breathe



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Balance, Pedal, Breathe: A Journey through Medical School by Claire Unis MD is an entertaining yet informative memoir that explores and illuminates the personal and professional difficulties physicians face through their calling. Dr. Unis provides an insight into dealing with personal tribulations while facing the long, tedious hours required to develop technical excellence in their craft and the litany of life-and-death decisions that a physician must make.

The author uses excerpts from her journal and her vast experience in her memoir of the “uniquely magnificent experiences” of becoming a doctor. She balances stories of her “before self” and her “doctor self” with visually gripping, descriptive sights, malodorous smells, nerve-grating noises, and patients’ stories. Medical terminology and jargon make the stories personal.

She tells of her desire as a young child to be a “helper” and her interest in medicine. Her trials and misgivings through the strenuous process of medical school and her difficult decision on a medical specialty are balanced with stories of her determination to continue with her interests in bicycling, rock climbing, hiking, and other outdoor activities. Later, during her clinical rotations, she takes up swing dancing. The author is masterful in relating the loneliness and exhaustion of medical training experiences to her extra-curricular activities.

Preparing to take the Medical Boards, she seriously considers whether or not she deserves to be a doctor. She has faced mortality first with cadavers, but how will she deal with her first death? She learns that doctors are “stoic students of disease and death.” During her clinical rotations, she is “doing and being and sensing and feeling” in real life. Several short yet intense rotations in surgery, psychiatry, labor and delivery, pediatrics, geriatrics, and other specialties, test her determination and dedication.

Most challenging are the destitute, extremely ill street people, usually alcoholics or drug users, that she treats in the emergency rooms. The horrific smells of unwashed bodies oozing sores and alive with lice repel her. She recalls attempting to jump her horse over an especially difficult obstacle and how she had to calm herself to be in control and not be thrown. She called on the same calming technique when approaching difficult patients. She also recalled advice that she should “touch them” in a loving, not clinical, way. She soon begins to relate to these “lost souls” as humans and help them medically.

Doctor Unis is an accomplished writer as well as a pediatrician. This memoir is a must-read for anyone who has a doctor-patient relationship. Understanding the challenges doctors endure will build and enhance the rapport. Balance, Pedal, Breathe elucidates and humanizes the difficult road traveled to becoming a physician.


Reviewed by: Carole W

About Claire Unis


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Claire Unis MD MFA is a board-certified practicing pediatrician who took time off during medical school to write about drawing on diverse experiences in the process of becoming a doctor. Claire brings her love of writing, as well as her understanding of every individual's need for personal expression, to her work as a communication coach and teacher of fellow clinicians in her medical group. Passionate as she is about the written and spoken word, she enjoys sharing literary enrichment as a means to combat burnout. Currently, Claire facilitates writing workshops and discussions of literature through her moniker, LifeLines: Literary Art in Medicine. Her creative nonfiction has been published in a number of journals including Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, Awakenings Review, and East Iowa Review. In her time off, Claire can usually be found riding her mountain bike, hiking nearby trails, skiing, or riding her horse.




Visit www.claireunis.net for more information on Claire Unis


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