One of this year’s Michigan Notable Books is In Stitches, the memoir of Doctor Anthony Youn. He’s a graduate of Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine with a plastic surgery practice in Troy.
Youn grew up in Greenville, Michigan, the son of Korean parents in an otherwise all-white town.
In Stitches takes readers from his childhood through medical school and into his medical practice. Along with his book, he’s gotten attention for making numerous appearances on national TV shows.
Youn will talk about the book at the East Lansing Public Library on Thursday at 7 p.m.
He toldd WKAR’s Scott Pohl that he thinks the Michigan Notable Books are just that --notable -- and not necessarily the best.
DR. ANTHONY YOUN: My feeling is that they picked mine because it was based in Michigan, because it did have some national recognition, and they really wanted to have, I think, a wide range of books that would appeal to the general population.
SCOTT POHL: Let’s tell people a little bit about the book then. You grew up in Michigan in a community where your family was the only non-white family in the town, went to Michigan State, and then went on to a medical career.
YOUN: The book really is my story, about four years at the Michigan State medical school, and how it transformed me from being a glorified college kid, to becoming that guy that walks into a patient’s room and they say “oh, thank God he’s here.” So, how does that process happen?
A lot of people watch shows like Grey’s Anatomy and House, and they think they have an idea of what it’s like, but most of those are not written by doctors. They’re written by writers and people who have not been through it. With the book In Stitches, I really wanted to expose the underbelly, the truth of what it’s like to go through medical school and to transform, once again, from that college kid to a doctor, and my medical school is at Michigan State. So, there’s a lot of professors and people that students may actually recognize.
Medicine is sometimes funny
POHL: Would someone reading your book find both hard-hitting, serious stories and passages as well as some laughs within the pages of your book?
YOUN: Yeah, and I think that’s what I’ve been most appreciative of in the reviews. People tell me “I laughed out loud, yet there are parts of it that I cried.” It’s like real life. In real life, there are laughs, there are times that are cringe-inducing, and then there are times that are really sad. There are a lot of patient stories in my book, stories about the patients who really changed my life. Some of them are actually funny. There’s a lot of humor in medicine, and I wanted to bring that part of it out. And, part of it is the hijinks of medical students and what we do even outside of the classroom and outside the hospital. But there are also patients that really struck me, patients that touched me, and some patients that even shocked me. There are patients that tried to physically attack me in the book, and then there are patients that I let down, that I felt maybe I could have done more.
Getting into television
POHL: So how did your career evolve from your practice to being a TV personality and writing on a number of websites? How did that happen?
YOUN: When I first started my practice, I actually spent a year out in Beverly Hills, where I worked at a top-name Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, and that got me a segment on the show Doctor 90210 back in 2004, and that got me started with the enjoyment of the TV aspect of the industry.
Once I got back to Michigan to start my own practice, I found myself without any patients, without any money, without any friends, and a ton of school loans, so I had a lot of time on my hands. I came to this epiphany that there’s never been a book written about becoming a doctor that I thought was funny, that was truthful, and that wasn’t written to glorify the actual doctor. Most of the books written about medical school and becoming a doctor are kind of the top ten patients whose lives I’ve changed. It’s written from that type of serious tone. Life is not always serious, and that‘s what I wanted to write. And, I had some time, because I was not very busy starting out!
It took me a good three to four years to finish the manuscript and get it out there. Now, my television appearances have really helped to prop the book up as well and to get news about it.
POHL: Well, I’m hoping I don’t have to point out to our listeners the pun within the title of the book.
YOUN: Hopefully not! It’s funny, and I had so many emails and calls from people like “it was 2 a.m. and I woke my husband up because I was lying in bed reading your book and laughing!” It’s just the greatest feeling when you hear stories like that.