The Kitchen Shrink is part memoir, part a history of medicine, as Dora Calott Wang seeks to explore how and why practicing medicine has changed so drastically over the course of the past two decades. Through Wang’s own personal experience as a psychiatrist, she brings the reader into a world where the medical industry is out to solely make a profit, where hospitals do not create rest and respite for patients but instead create headaches and heartbreaking moments, where doctors aren’t allowed more than ten minutes a week with each of their patients. Sadly, this is the world Americans live in every day, even though we may not be aware of it, and Wang is dead set on giving the reader a look into the world which has nearly broken her down as a professional over the past twenty years.
I believe The Kitchen Shrink is the first book about the health care industry I’ve ever read, and it was a fantastic place for me to start. Dora Calott Wang has an excellent writing style that allows the reader to get to know her as a person yet also delivers the facts in a completely honest, bare-bones way. The mix of memoir/medical history was so perfect for me and I really got a lot out of this book. I’d be more than willing to read anything else Ms. Wang delivers.
Unfortunately, the message The Kitchen Shrink has is an incredibly sad, disheartening one. It’s clear from Wang’s experience and years working as a psychiatrist that she knows what she’s talking about, and what she tells the reader is that the health care system in the U.S. is broken. She takes the reader on a journey through hospitals and insurance companies that sees patients as dollar signs instead of people, through homeless shelters where people end up dying for lack of basic medical care and attention, and psychiatry practices where doctors are encouraged to spend as little time as possible actually helping patients. Everything Wang describes for the reader can only be described as a sad state of affairs. This book made me angry, to be honest, because I cannot understand how insurance companies and hospitals cannot see the damage that’s being done here. It made me feel sick to my stomach, truly.
Yet at the same time, while the book was difficult to read and made me feel angry and depressed and helpless, it’s an important read. It is interesting and important and we should be listening to what Ms. Wang has to say. As human beings, if we don’t have our health we don’t have anything at all, and The Kitchen Shrink is a reminder to us that health care can be better. It can be much more efficient, it can be less expensive, and it can take better care of people.
Wang doesn’t offer many answers, just her observations and frustrations over the years of practicing medicine. The Kitchen Shrink may not be able to solve all of the problems we have with health care in this country, but it certainly opened my eyes to a lot of them. Which is a great start.