This is the third in MJA member, Tom Smith’s autobiographical series based on his life as a doctor-journalist-research-worker factotum. Tom has won MJA book awards for his popular self-help books and also for the first book in this series: A Seaside Practice, cataloguing his experience as a young GP in rural Scotland, which is funny in the style of the A J Cronin Dr Findlay stories. (Perhaps the material lends itself to humour?) In the second book of the series Tom goes to work for big pharma, and manages to find some funny stories even there. In this book he brings us up to date with his journalistic work covering medical conferences all over the world – hence the title – but also back in his beloved Ayrshire, south Scotland, as a GP locum.
The travel/conference stories are lively and interesting, particularly for journalists who may have trodden the same path. Tom is a natural story-teller with a bedside-reading manner that makes everything he writes accessible and entertaining. But it is the stories of Ayrshire docs and patients that really light up the pages: the COPD patient smoking in an oxygen tent; the high-blood pressure patient who refuses all medication but, just as he leaves the surgery, asks if the doc can give him something for ‘these heavy nose-bleeds’. Characters like this illuminated A Seaside Practice, and it’s wonderful to meet more of them. Apparently Tom’s attempts to preserve patient confidentiality in his first book were not quite adequate and there were a few repercussions following publication, so in this book he even goes to the length of changing any places names smaller than Ayrshire and Glasgow. (Well, for a Celtic v. Rangers football match you couldn’t really invent a location could you?) It makes it a little more difficult to picture the scene, but only if you know Ayrshire. Like A Seaside Practice, this would make a great Christmas present for either medic or journalist, and its natural resting place would be on a guest-room bedside table.