Cecil Helman’s unique combination of frontline health worker and detached academic informs the many stories that make up this fascinating book. It also informs his insights into what human suffering can teach us about ourselves and our own attitudes to health and illness, whether we are deliverers or recipients of health care.
With insight and compassion, Dr Helman’s stories take the reader on a journey from apartheid South Africa, where he did his medical training, to the London of the early 1970s, where for a short time he foreswore medicine to become an anthropologist and poet; from ship’s doctor on a Mediterranean cruise to family practitioner in London; from observing curative trance dances in the favelas of Brazil to interviewing sangomas in South Africa.
While trained in the Western tradition and with many years of practice in that system, Dr Helman’s anthropological insight led him to view illness in a wider personal, social and cultural context, considering elements beyond the purely physical. In pleading for this holistic approach his writing celebrates family medicine which ‘in its quiet and unassuming way, and every day of the week, is still at the very frontline of human suffering’.
Readers who deliver - or receive - health care.
Publisher: Hammersmith Books
Publication: 26 January 2006