Confessions of an American Doctor
Confessions of an American Doctor is a refreshingly honest, and, at times, an openly repentant recount of one man’s brush with the law and the aftermath that followed. Herein, you will, dear reader, get to know ‘Dr Max Kepler’ (an alias for obvious reasons) quite intimately. You will follow his ups, downs, and anxieties over what is arguably the worst years of his life.
After a amenable divorce from his wife Alice, Max seeks to make sense of his life. He decides to look into a hair growth treatment for his thinning hair and ends up becoming friends with a man named Lance Starling. Lance has a hair growth formula and budding business, but he needs a doctor’s input so Max becomes his partner, despite vague misgivings over the nature of the formula. Greater association with Lance lulls Max into complacency and makes it easy to succumb to temptation and import non-FDA regulated botulinum toxin and hGH, or human growth hormone, from overseas. He does have it tested for quality, and uses both in his cosmetics clinics, offering lower-than-average prices. He administers the quite illegal hGH to only five people, and never once administered the overseas drugs to his hospital patients.
Max is caught, arrested just as he was leaving to go on a trip, and embarks on a grueling odyssey back to redemption. Through interrogations, court dates, and lawyer meetings, Max must still watch after his daughter, and keep up with bills. He goes through a succession of jobs, trying to stay afloat. Then there are the lawyers. Ted is his counsel for the felony charges, and Gordon is the lawyer interfacing with the Medical Board. Between the two, they strive to keep Max out of prison and retain his medical license.
Interspersed through the primary story are flashbacks and background stories to illustrate Max as a whole and that Max is a loving, kind person who makes a great doctor. Indeed, as the story goes on, Max will receive assistance and support from the unlikeliest of places, including his hospital, where his fellow doctors insisted on holding his job open rather than replacing him.
This read had me invested from the get-go. I felt Max’s anxiety as he blundered through this terrifying ordeal. It’s very clear that Max deeply regretted his errors. Money and fame weren’t the goal. Helping people was. He just should have paid more attention to his instincts. Lance was a person he never should have gotten involved with.
I enjoyed the background and anecdotes. It is so sad to me that Max felt he must hide going to Harvard from his fellow high-schoolers. How do you not shout that from the rafters? Then again, coming from a family and area where greater intelligence isn’t as valued over other stuff myself, I’ve always felt the need to hide. My birth family was not proud of my achieving a PhD, thinking I am ‘uppity’ because I have a much higher IQ. I am equally impressed with Max’s dedication. After suffering the wrath of Wegener’s granulomatosis, he decided he wanted to be a doctor and help people. He held fast to that goal til he succeeded.
Max’s desire to experience the full emotional consequences of his actions, believing that was the best way to sink the lesson home and facilitate lasting behavioral change shows an impressive amount of maturity. This indicates a deep level of introspection and a great deal of courage, even if stress did later result in use of Valium to manage the anxiety. It’s terrifying how quickly our lives can become blocked by loss of freedom and beset by misery, yet we can persevere. This is one man’s story to persevere.
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