Review by Sean Malone, Publishing Consultant with Orange Hat Publishing | Ten16 Press
“[The book] reflects how each experience made me feel in the moment. Even in times of great distress, there can be delightful discoveries. I was inspired by many of my patients, and the essays about those experiences reflect my awe” – From a TEN16 Press interview with the author, August 2021
Bruce Campbell first began journaling intermittently as a seventeen-year-old nursing assistant, taking notes about new or surprising experiences. That process, which has continued to this day, laid the foundation for Dr. Campbell’s recent release, A Fullness of Uncertain Significance: Stories of Surgery, Clarity, and Grace (2021). The book both chronicles and explores the interactions Dr. Campbell has had with many patients across his vocation as a physician. The book excels in highlighting the empathy and essence of the doctor-patient relationship. Ultimately, these are human interactions, and the lesson of the book is for that reality to be foremost in the minds of physicians as they provide care and treatment for their patients.
Reading the book as a layperson completely outside the medical profession, I had a distinct and increased awareness of how care providers are affected by their interactions with patients. The traits, personalities, and lasting impressions of the patients indeed take a central role in the narrative, defining the encounters. This anecdotal and digestible format of about sixty episodes maintains an interesting variety and easy pace for progressing through the book. Additionally, the A Fullness of Uncertain Significance covers a considerable span of the author’s life, so that the reader is left with a sense of Dr. Campbell’s own progression during the stages of his career, and to an extent how his writing and observational skills developed alongside each other.
Far from being a jargon-heavy or esoteric manual, Campbell’s work is a wholesome and educational collection that benefits a broad audience. One is left with the feeling that intermittent, but continual reflection is a good thing for anyone to engage in, and that patients and physicians can be brought closer together by first reexamining their perceptions of each other. As Dr. Carol Scott-Conner remarked in her review of the book, “The words ‘clarity’ and ‘grace’ take on heightened significance in this honest yet lyrical set of essays… subtle language lays bare a primal relationship. It is impossible to read this book and not be changed by the experience.”
A Fullness of Uncertain Significance: Stories of Surgery, Clarity, & Grace
By Bruce Campbell
When Dr. Bruce H. Campbell first set foot in a hospital as a seventeen-year-old nursing assistant, he observed the best and the worst of doctors, hospitals, and the entire health care team. These lessons returned to him and shaped his own journey as he became a surgeon. Through these well-crafted, poignant, sometimes funny, and always insightful stories, he shares what his patients and their families shared, having never forgotten what it felt like to be a beginner.
Bruce H. Campbell, MD FACS, is a surgeon who has also published or collaborated on about a hundred scientific articles (in addition to hundreds of blog posts, essays, poems, and short stories). He was a contributing editor to Character and Caring: A Pandemic Year in Medical Education, and continues in encouraging and coordinating healthcare providers to submit further reflective essays.
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Article originally Published in the August / September 2022 Issue: Indie Debuts.