BOOK REVIEWS

The official website of Michael Gordon, MD, MSc, FRCPC.

 

 

 

 

 

Brooklyn Beginnings

 

Parenting Your Parents written by Dr. Michael Gordon

"Dr. Michael Gordon has opened tall windows of insight into the rarely viewed world of the geriatric care specialist with his recently published autobiography, Brooklyn Beginnings: A Geriatrician's Odyssey. Gordon, a columnist with The CJN, was the first Canadian to receive a certificate in geriatric medicine. He has a gift for storytelling and a keen sense of recall for the myriad details of the formative and playful moments of his private life and of the medically profound moments of a pioneering, robust career in the medical care of the elderly. His pre-geriatric medical years take him - and the reader - to Scotland, where he first studied medicine, and then to Europe and Israel, where he refined his medical training, and ultimately, to Canada, where he settled into his life's work. The cases he recounts are more than episodes in a doctor's agenda or experiences in a hospital ward. They are para­digms of medical/forensic investigation. They are lessons about life. Perhaps most tellingly, they are insights into the ultimate issues that we all face. Gordon combines unabashed details of personal anecdotes with similarly unvarnished recollections of professional responsibilities and duties. His honesty is as disarming as it is effective. It is due, in large measure, to individuals such as Michael Gordon that our parents and our grandparents are not cast aside in their old age."
Mordechai-Ben-Dat,
Editor, Canadian Jewish News


Brooklyn Beginnings was such a pleasure to read! The author's photos that appear on the cover hint at the very personal memoir that follows. Anyone who has worked with Michael can't help but be infected by his obvious love of life and medicine, but this memoir leads the reader through a journey in which the full man and physician is revealed. The honesty and joy with which he writes shines from the pages, and the varied life stories which take the reader around the world are stories well worth telling. This memoir is a must-read for anyone who knows Michael, and for those who do not, it provides a deep look inside the life and the heart of a physician who truly enjoys this life's calling.


Dr. Karen E Jones
Community Medicine Specialist
Physician Psychotherapist
Assistant Professor, Departments of Family & Community Medicine and Psychiatry, University of Toronto


“Brooklyn Beginnings: A Geriatrician's Odyssey” is a fiery, frank, and often funny account of Dr Michael Gordon's development: not just as a pioneering physician and medical ethicist, but as a husband, father and, throughout his life, the child of aging parents himself. With its distinct and accessible narrative voice, this compelling memoir affirms that "professionalism" in medicine need not be divorced from the domain of the "personal." From acing medical vivas in Scotland, to eluding border guards in Bulgaria, to advocating on behalf of his elderly patients, Dr Gordon's perennial charm reminds readers just how much personality and, to some extent, luck, can powerfully influence the directions taken in one's life. Yet his accounts of personal disappointments, professional quandaries, and those agonizing episodes in life that defy all supposed qualifications, are also written with remarkable candour and honesty. The overall effect of Dr Gordon's style and story is impressive - on one hand, we learn about an extraordinary life; yet this is a personal odyssey rich in moments that will resonate genuinely with the reader's own.

A. Charise, CIHR Strategic Training Fellow (Doctoral) in Health Care,
Technology,and Place, University of Toronto


The last time I saw Michael Gordon was 42 years ago. I'm sure I hadn't ever spoken with him more than five times previously. But I recall him as a young man (as I was then too) of intelligence and kindness and with a great sense of the adventure of life. So I am not surprised at the quality of this memoir nor at the personal and professional experiences it describes. There are so many riveting stories, such as that of terminal cancer patient Ian MacGillivray, whose wife's tearful request led Dr. Gordon, just out of medical school, to permit MacGillivray to leave his Aberdeen, Scotland hospital bed to go back to his farm for a final weekend with his beloved dog Misty, who was refusing to eat in his absence. The dog didn't leave his side for the entire two days. Back at the hospital, MacGillivray took Dr. Gordon's hands in his and thanked him. A few days later, surrounded by family, he passed away. Equally unforgettable is the story of Chaim, an elderly Israeli who had come to Toronto for intricate surgery in an attempt to regain his long-lost sight. Dr. Gordon assisted an ophthalmologist in the procedure. Who will forget Chaim's ecstatic shouts of joy as he phoned his wife in Israel, "I can see, I can see!" Lots of other stories. Funny ones. Amorous ones (some of which are also pretty funny). Gut-wrenching ones like the medical evacuation of two wounded Israeli soldiers from a Lebanese battlefield. Stories of lives saved and of lives lost despite valiant efforts. And stories of the kinds of difficult ethical decisions that doctors (and sometimes families) are called upon to make.

Eric Rowe, Worcester, Mass, journalist


As Timone, the meerkat in The Lion King, so famously said: "Ya think ya know a guy!" People who know Dr. Michael Gordon will be amazed at how much they never knew about this engaging and dynamic physician. People who don't know him will be impressed by the richness of his life, from humble beginnings to one of the Canadian pioneers of Geriatrics as a medical specialty. How did a young boy growing up in wartime Brooklyn become an astute and compassionate clinician, gifted teacher and professor, compelling speaker and author, media personality and inspiring mentor to countless doctors and nurses? Part coming-of-age story, part adventure saga, part travel adventure, Dr. Gordon shares his lifelong journey with uncommon candor, insight, warmth and humor. Michael has lived many lives in his one life. In this wonderful memoir, he relates the multitude of events that have shaped his life and propelled him to make such profound contributions to Medicine, Geriatrics and Medical Ethics. The wisdom of his experience and empathy shines through in every chapter.

David D. Posen, MD, author of "The Little Book of Stress Relief", Oakville, Ontario


The author shares with the reader a journey of a life well-spent. From humble beginnings Dr. Gordon lived and continues to live the life given to him to the fullest extent. This memoir describes his passions for travel, food, music, and most of all, people and in particular, the elderly. His tales of favourite events in school, medical training, and work life are humourous and touching. There are lessons in this book for those with aging parents and for those who are aging themselves. His perspective as a geriatrician and as a son offer unique insights.
Mary McDiarmid,
MISt (Master of Information Studies), Toronto, Ontario


Dr. Gordon's book has incredible inventiveness and amazing illustrations of events that makes it unique. It is a very emotionally powerful book, very well written and does a great job of depicting the time periods and events on which the stories are based. It contains a fascinating and truly thought-provoking analysis of human events and situations especially those that are personal to the author. Brooklyn Beginnings does a marvelous job of foreshadowing. It is never blatantly obvious what is to come as the book unfolds - it is subtle and requires a good mind to catch on. When you just simply read it you may think it is just a memoir of events, but when you read between the lines you can find very important meanings and metaphors that make this book the classic work of writing that I think it is. It will appeal to a wide spectrum of audiences with its rather graphic depictions of personal and emotional and physical interactions and historical events and settings. It is a highly enjoyable read. Awesome work!
Dr. Helen Senderovich, Primary Care Physician, Toronto, Ontario


If the first sentence in this delightful tale doesn't grab your attention, you'd better check your pulse, or call 911 because you might not be breathing for long! Or you could call Dr. Michael Gordon, author of this wonderfully engaging and well-written memoir. He details his humble beginnings as a young Jewish boy growing up in New York through his training as a physician in, of all places Dundee Scotland, his active duty as an officer in the Israeli Air Force during the pivotal 1971 War of Attrition, to his leadership in the recognition of a new specialty in Medicine in Canada; Geriatrics. It is clear that he loves life and lives life to the fullest. He also shows his love for medicine and his patients. It is a refreshing read, and so satisfying to realize that someone so accomplished is also so adventurous and engaging. If I could give this 6 stars I would, but the highest is 5!

H. C. Tenenbaum, DDS, Dip. Perio., PhD, FRCD(C)
Professor, Faculty of Dentistry, University of Toronto


A great gift for a future doctor! One of the great bonuses of working at Baycrest Center in Toronto is to know and understand Dr. Michael Gordon. It is rare in one's life to meet a Renaissance man- someone who is gifted and accomplished in many different endeavors-Michael is a Renaissance man -expert clinician, compassionate caring physician,master ethicist, brilliant teacher, nurturing mentor, entertaining raconteur, musician, deep thinker and exceptionally well read. His odyssey in medicine was rooted in a progressive Jewish milieu in Brooklyn. Clearly a brilliant student, he went on to study medicine in Dundee Scotland and then travelled all over Europe as well as Israel. These travels exposed him to different languages, cultures, and ways of thinking. He did some training in the US but, being a conscientious objector to the Vietnam war, he came to Canada as a draft-dodger cum immigrant, and trained in internal medicine here. Ultimately he rose from trainee to Chief Medical Officer of the Baycrest Center, the leading geriatric health care facility in North America. His contributions to the care of the elderly in Canada and globally is monumental. His recollections of his training and experiences along the way are riveting. The many stories he tells are fascinating from the emotional as well as the medical perspective. He has transmitted the fundamental Jewish values of making the world a better place and has trained countless doctors from all over the world in the practice of humane medicine for the aged. I urge anyone interested in the life and times of a "Model" physician to read this well-written, inspirational and entertaining book.
Keith Meloff MD FRCPC Consultant Neurologist Underserviced Area Program Ministry of Health Province of Ontario


 

Available in book stores and online:Amazon.ca, Chapters, Barnes & Noble, I Universe, Amazon.com