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Am Fam Physician. 1999;59(3):707-708

Book Reviews

Krugman's Infectious Diseases of Children

Edited by Samuel L. Katz, Anne A. Gershon, and Peter J. Hotez. Pp. 785. Price, $79.95. 10th ed. Mosby, 11830 Westline Industrial Dr., St. Louis, MO 63146–3318, 1998.

Most physicians are acquainted with Krugman's Infectious Diseases of Children to some extent. Some read it cover-to-cover as medical students and then keep it as a ready reference. Those who do not remember this textbook will recognize the helpful charts and drawings from lectures they have attended.

No clinician can possibly retain all of the information necessary to treat infectious diseases in children. For some physicians, a handbook of recommendations suffices, for instance, the Redbook of the AAP. The encyclopedic-minded prefer a thorough textbook, like Feigen and Cherry's Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. Pediatric infectious disease consultants favor a book with an index of difficult-to-find facts and emphasis on inpatient problems, for instance Mandell's Principles and Practice of Infectious Disease. Nonetheless, Krugman's has a faithful following of clinicians who want to read a brief summary of a disease and then decide for themselves what treatment to follow.

Two outstanding teachers, Robert Ward, M.D., and Saul Krugman, M.D., wrote the first editions of Infectious Diseases of Children. The writing was clear, systematic and consistent. With the passing of Dr. Krugman in 1995, the present editors decided to pursue a multiauthor format. The results are successful. All of the present authors embrace the original purpose “to provide a concise and handy description of certain common infectious diseases of children.” Because the authors are authorities in their fields, they are able to summarize complex problems without oversimplifying them and are also able to anticipate evolving recommendations. Fortunately, this edition still contains the chapter on the diagnosis of acute exanthematous disease that was written by Dr. Krugman and includes clear diagrams that have withstood the test of time.

One idiosyncrasy of Drs. Ward and Krugman's—their emphasis on “classic” infections—lives on despite the limited importance of these infections to the practitioner today. Perhaps the editors want to leave the impression that vaccine-preventable diseases are always ready to reemerge. In fact, recent experience has reminded us that pertussis, measles and even diphtheria have resurged when public health is neglected. For such reasons, measles is important for every clinician to recognize no matter how rare it becomes. However, the inclusion of an entire chapter on smallpox, with two color plates and two line drawings, is excessive. The chapter on rabies could be included in the chapter on viral encephalitis, Haemophilus influenzae type b could be put into the chapter on meningitis, pertussis into respiratory infections, etc. However, space is misapportioned to topics other than vaccine-preventable diseases as well. For instance, the chapter on toxoplasmosis, while written from a practical hands-on standpoint, takes up more than 30 pages.

One has to look hard to find important issues missing from this handy book. Perhaps future editions could add evaluation of febrile children, management of toxic shock syndrome, differential diagnosis of lymphadenitis and prevention of respiratory syncytial virus by immunoglobulins.

In summary, anyone who likes the format of the earlier editions of Krugman's will continue to find the present edition convenient and reliable.

The Staff and the Serpent: Pertinent and Impertinent Observations on the World of Medicine

By Allen B. Weisse. Pp. 168. Price, $29.95. Southern Illinois University Press, P.O. Box 3697, Carbondale, IL 62901, 1998.

As an admirer of Dr. Allen Weisse's two inspiring works, Medical Odysseys and Conversations in Medicine, I eagerly awaited the opportunity to read his new book. Dr. Weisse is a respected physician whose refreshing outlook on medical history makes these books ones that I would recommend to anyone considering or beginning a career in medicine.

His latest compilation offers a different perspective. It is composed of 22 humorous and informative essays and is written in an affable, well-organized and easily readable style. The book is filled with the amiable insights of an Eastern establishment doctor who received postgraduate medical training in California and Utah before returning to the New York metropolitan area for a highly successful 30-year academic career.

Dr. Weisse begins with the circumstances behind his three efforts to gain admission to medical school in the 1950s. He emphasizes how persistence and good fortune finally rewarded him with an acceptance into medical school. Dr. Weisse came full circle many colorful yarns later, when he found himself chairman of his medical school's admissions committee. He includes a chapter on the difficult topic of physician retirement and then finishes with an essay aptly titled, “So You Want to Be a Doctor.” The chapters cover a broad range and include the following topics: why so few physicians' children desire a career in medicine; how academic mentors have betrayed him and other physicians; animal research; “what's in a name”; and his medical sleuthing on the origins of the names Pneumocystis carinii and the “white plague” (tuberculosis).

Each chapter is filled with wonderful anecdotes. I particularly enjoyed one about a professor who returned home to enthusiastically announce emeritus status to his grandson. His grandson proudly responded that he knew Latin: “e” means you're out and “meritus” that you deserved it.

Weisse's essay on names is fascinating too. Weisse's family name in Bialystok, Poland (pronounced something like “Vissavahter”) is said to be a combination of German “weiss” for white and the Polish “woda” (pronounced “voda” in English) for water. This original family name probably reflected the imagination of a Prussian bureaucrat from the last century in providing a lengthy and amusing last name to a family lacking one, a common practice paradoxically akin to that of Ellis Island officials shortening or “Americanizing” immigrant names.

One need not fear provoking consternation with this book. This is no Franz Kafka–like rendition of medicine struggling under a bureaucratic structure of the darkly absurd, or of the valuelessness of each individual physician and patient within a corporate economy and its political system. Weisse's “impertinent observations,” even concerning political correctness, are fundamentally politically correct.

This book would be enjoyable for every physician and premedical student. Witty and fascinating, each of its 22 chapters is a pleasure to read. This little gem deserves to be a “best seller.”

Also Received

Benzo Blues: Overcoming Anxiety Without Tranquilizers

By Edward H. Drummond. Pp. 302. Price, $13.95. Plume, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014, 1998.

Blood and Bone: Poems by Physicians

Edited by Angela Belli and Jack Coulehan. Pp. 224. Price, $29.95. University of Iowa Press, 100 Kuhl House, Iowa City, IA 52242–1000, 1998.

Case Studies in Gastroenterology CD-ROM

By Ingram Roberts. 2d ed. SilverPlatter Education, Inc., 246 Walnut St., Ste. 302, Newton, MA 02460–1639, 1998.

1998 Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment (CD-ROM)

By Stephen J. McPhee, Laurence M. Tierney, Maxine A. Papadakis and Ralph Gonzales. Price, $99.00. Appleton & Lange, 107 Elm St., P.O. Box 120041, Stamford, CT 06912–0041, 1998.

Cystic Fibrosis in Adults

By James R. Yankaskas and Michael R. Knowles. Pp. 528. Price, $99.95. Lippincott, 227 E. Washington Square, Philadelphia, PA 19106, 1998.

Diagnosing and Managing Headaches

By Seymour Diamond. Pp. 192. Price, $17.95. 2d ed. Professional Communications, 400 Center Bay Dr., West Islip, NY 11795, 1998.

The Doctor in Colonial America

By Zachary B. Friedenberg. Pp. 256. Price, $17.95. Rutledge Books, 107 Mill Plain Rd., Danbury, CT 06811, 1998.

The Family Practitioner's Survival Guide to the Business of Medicine

By Robert W. Katz. Pp. 170. Price, $55.00. Aspen Publishers, 200 Orchard Ridge Dr., Ste. 200, Gaithersburg, MD 20878, 1998.

The Grief Recovery Handbook

By John W. James and Russell Friedman. Pp. 173. Price, $13.00. HarperPerennial, 10 E. 53rd St., New York, NY 10022–5299, 1998.

Guarded Prognosis: A Doctor and His Patients Talk About Chronic Disease and How to Cope With It

By Michael Lockshin. Pp. 260. Price, $24.00. Hill & Wang, 19 Union Square West, New York, NY 10003, 1998.

Health Care Finance

By Steven R. Eastaugh. Pp. 257. Price, $39.00. Apsen Publishers, 200 Orchard Ridge Dr., Ste. 200, Gaithersburg, MD 20878, 1998.

The Healthiest Diet in the World

By Nikki and David Goldbeck. Pp. 561. Price, $34.95. Dutton, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014, 1998.

The Kensington Way: A Revolutionary Lifestyle Guide to Weight Control, Vitality and Perfect Health

By Stephen Twigg. Pp. 278. Price, $22.95. Dutton, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014.

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