Dr. Matt McCarthy is an assistant professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and an assistant attending physician at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He graduated from Harvard Medical School and went on to complete his internal medicine residency at Columbia University Medical Center. Before that, Dr. McCarthy graduated from Yale University with a degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry, and then spent a year in Minor League Baseball. He wrote about his stint in baseball in Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit. The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician’s First Year is his most recent book, and details the trials and tribulations of internship year. Dr. McCarthy has published in USA Today, Sports Illustrated, The Atlantic, Slate, Reuters, Deadspin, and Stat. I sat down with Dr. McCarthy at an Upper East Side café to pick his brain. This interview has been edited and condensed:
I was having dinner with my editor three years ago, and he asked if I’d ever thought of writing a book about medicine. I had kept a journal during my intern year, but I was hesitant to write about my experiences. Some were great, but a lot weren’t and I wasn’t sure I could convey the difficult moments fairly. My editor and I spent a long time working on the tone of the book, trying to capture just how terrifying and inspiring that first year is.
2. What would you say is the most controversial part of the book?
The trickiest thing is writing about your own patients. Some medical writers believe we should only write about patients if we have their written consent. Most journalists tend to disagree with this and you occasionally see arguments about it break out on social media. In a few cases, I wasn’t able to get written consent for my book, so I had to change identifying details to protect anonymity. It’s not just about complying with HIPAA. It’s about changing personal details so thoroughly that you’re really protecting identities. Patients are vulnerable, and we have to be careful when we write about them.