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Review & Giveaway: The Color of the Atmosphere by Dr. Maggie Kozel

[ 98 ] May 20, 2011 |

Reviewed by Jill-Elizabeth

Anyone who has watched the news or read a newspaper is likely aware that the United States is facing a crisis in health care delivery. In The Color of Atmosphere, Dr. Maggie Kozel provides her personal slant on this crisis in the context of the changing nature of her pediatric health care practice.

This engaging memoir opens with the story of Dr. Kozel’s less-than-ideal childhood, which sparked both an interest in medicine and the drive to become a doctor. Her journey to (and through) college, medical school, and residency is presented in a crisp, clear voice. The stories of her personal and professional lives intertwine; she marries a colleague (a neurologist) and at the completion of their residencies the two move to Japan to fulfill their educational obligations to the U.S. Navy.

In Japan, Dr. Kozel gets her first taste of the “official” practice of medicine in a U.S. Naval Hospital; it is not until several years later, when she and her husband return to private practice in the United States, however, that she gets her first taste of the “official” U.S. health care delivery system – and the latter taste is decidedly not to her liking. So much so, in fact, that it ultimately leads her to walk away from medicine altogether.

The journey from bright-eyed, idealistic young doctor-in-training to exhausted, cynical, burned-out pediatrician is an interesting one, full of anecdotes that will touch (and occasionally break) your heart. Dr. Kozel’s book is equal parts personal story and policy analysis. In an easy-to-read narrative style, she blends the joys and challenges of pediatric medical practice from the perspective of a wife and mother with the trials and tribulations of delivering health care in the bureaucratic corporate delivery system that began to grow into its own in the late 1980s – just as she returned to the United States and to private, non-military medicine.

Dr. Kozel’s personal and professional journey, which culminates in her decision to stop practicing medicine and begin teaching high school chemistry, is presented in a way that is touching, entertaining, and insightful. The story was easy to follow and Dr. Kozel and her struggles with “corporate medicine” will likely resonate with anyone who has had occasion to engage with a health plan or hospital in the past twenty years. But resonance aside, I have to respectfully disagree with her ultimate position: that the military health care delivery system should serve as the model for U.S. health care reform.

[amazonify]1603582975[/amazonify]In the spirit of full disclosure, I say this as an attorney and former health policy and government relations professional who spent fifteen years working in the insurance and pharmaceutical sectors. I started my career in Washington, DC, during the Clinton health care reform era. I have more than a little bit of experience and first-hand knowledge backing me up when I say that, while the U.S. health care delivery system is not perfect, abandoning it altogether for a government-sponsored military-esque system is neither practical nor desirable.

I empathize with Dr. Kozel’s internal struggle and agree that there are fundamental problems with our health care system. I appreciate her criticisms and concerns about the erosion in the doctor-patient relationship, and understand why she does not like health insurance company policies, procedures and paperwork. But I have witnessed firsthand the other side and know that those policies, procedures and paperwork serve a purpose – to curb spiraling health care costs, massive personal and governmental spending, declining health outcomes, and unnecessary surgeries, medical tests, and prescriptions.

I may not agree with Dr. Kozel’s policy perspective or politics, but I do believe that it is important that she, and other doctors, nurses, and “health care professionals” (a term she hates, but I like because it encompasses everyone involved in medicine – it is not only doctors who deliver medical care, after all) offer their perspective and engage in the debate about health care reform. And what better way to do so than in an engaging memoir that educates, entertains, and attempts to persuade…

Rating: 3.5/5

A former corporate attorney and government relations/health policy executive, Jill-Elizabeth walked away from that world (well, skipped actually) and toward a more literary life (equally challenging, but infinitely more enjoyable). If you enjoyed this review, please visit her at Jill-Elizabeth.com, the official home of All Things Jill-Elizabeth – that is, all of the teehees, musings, rants, book reviews, writing exercises, and witticisms of her burgeoning writing career.

Giveaway:

I have 1 copy of The Color of Atmosphere to give away!

Mandatory entry: Please comment here and include your e-mail address.

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This giveaway is open to US residents only. Deadline to enter is midnight on June 3, 2011.

Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Chelsea Green Publishing. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Category: Current Events, Giveaways, Memoirs, Nonfiction

Comments (98)

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  1. 94
  2. 93

    To all those who entered the LuxuryReading giveaway but did not win, I am announcing my first blog giveaway today and it includes my review copy of this book (plus another book, plus a totebag)! Stop by Jill-Elizabeth.com any time after noon EDT today (June 30) to enter.

    Thanks again to Vera and LuxuryReading.com for the free review copies and the opportunity to do guest book reviews.

    Good luck!
    Jill Elizabeth recently posted..My New Kindle, or Hooray, More Books to Read!

  3. 92

    FYI – if anyone is interested, I am announcing my first blog giveaway today and it includes my review copy of this book (plus another book, plus a totebag) today! Stop by Jill-Elizabeth.com any time after noon EDT today (June 30) and enter.

    Thanks again to Vera and LuxuryReading.com for the free review copies and the opportunity to do guest book reviews.

    Good luck!
    Jill Elizabeth recently posted..My New Kindle, or Hooray, More Books to Read!

  4. 91
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    Meredith Miller says:

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  7. 88
    Meredith Miller says:

    I agree something has to be done about healthcare, but frankly, I think we’re way past an easy fix. Would love to read this to see what the author has to say.

    meredithfl at gmail dot com

  8. 87
    Mary J says:

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    Mary J says:

    MY college age nephew wants to go to med school after he graduates . I think he would enjoy this book.
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  31. 64
    librarypat says:

    What a timely topic to be writing about. Having been in the military health system as well as the private sector system, I can say neither is perfect. The advantage of the military system is its availability to all ranks. An E-1 making below the poverty line can get care just as readily as an officer and doesn’t have to worry about affordability. I am very curious to read her book and see why she left her practice and what she suggests.

    librarypat AT comcast DOT net

  32. 63

    [...] Book Review: The Color of Atmosphere Jill Elizabeth posted this on May 24th, 2011 For today’s Book Review Tuesday post, I am featuring a slightly extended version of a book review conducted for LuxuryReading.com, a wonderful site for which I will be reviewing non-fiction on a (hopefully) regular basis. A review copy of the book was provided courtesy of LuxuryReading, and the original review, which was posted May 20, is available here. LuxuryReading.com is also offering a chance to win a copy of the book, if you are interested – check out the review and requirements here. [...]

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  51. 44

    Our health care system is is need of a great overhaul, that’s not in questions. What we have right now is just not working for too many people. But I’m not sure whatever is coming up the road soon will be the answer either. For a president to force feed us ‘for our own good’ a new health care reform that so many don’t want, was a really bad use of judgement on his part.

    I want to read this book now, to see what her solution would be. In the past few years, hundreds of doctors have left my state because of the insurance costs and because Medicaid has decided not to pay what the doctors are asking for their services.

    I made a mistake a few years ago after going to my doctors office he told me I had Pneumonia and I needed to go right over to the emergency room and get a breathing treatment, x-ray and maybe even be admitted for a couple of days. He asked me to go to UMC where he has privileges and he would be able to give me paperwork on what tests he wanted ordered before I ever even got there. So I did…

    Even with the doctors orders, I waited 7 hours in the waiting room to be seen after finally getting in the back and waiting another 8 hours for all the tests to be done I was told they didn’t have any beds available that they were sending me home with prescriptions but if I felt bad in a week, to come back in.

    The wait in the waiting room was so long because UMC is the only County hospital in Las Vegas, which means anyone even anyone without insurance can go there and they can’t turn you away. Well, I have insurance and should have gone to a different hospital, which if I ever need to go to the ER again, I will pick a different hospital.
    Mary Kirkland recently posted..My little ratty faces

    • 44.1
      Carol Wong says:

      That was a horrible experience that you had. I had pneumonia three times in Indiana and each time, and after a chest x-ray to prove it, I was sent home with a prescription and told not to lift a finger. That was back in the 1970s and 1980s. I don’t think I would have recovered if I have to wait 8 hours to get all the tests done. That seems like a lack of compassion and maybe funds to me.

      I sent e-mails to the senate and house of representatives about making sure that we can keep our doctors. At least all but one of my doctors accept Medicare patients.

  52. 43
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  58. 37
    Pam Keener says:

    What an interesting review. I love how Jill-Elizabeth also gives her perspective about our health care system within the review. Thanks for the giveaway too. Jill I will be checking out your site for more interesting musings.
    Love & Hugs,
    Pam
    pk4290(at)comcast(dot)net

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  71. 24
    Colleen Turner says:

    The healthcare system and the best plan of action for all facets of society is a very controversial and complicated thing. I am not sure at all how the issues associated with it should be solved, but I do know that no one should ever have to decide between getting medical care or medications and buying groceries (or whatever bills inevitably pile up in today’s pathetic economy). My husband and I both have jobs and we are able to pay all of our bills and stay ahead, but we both have to pay so much for healthcare through the companies we work with, then have to pay $25 co-pays just to walk in a doctors door and then meet a $600 deductible for each of us (and our son) separately before our health insurance coverage even starts paying for the services we seek that we both have to nearly be unable to move in order for us to agree to go to a doctor. We take our son for everything that comes up, but for my husband and I we will try anything before going to a doctor to avoid the large bills that will keep coming in as our wonderful “insurance” decides not to cover aspect after aspect of the “services” the doctors decided to provide. Sorry if I sound bitter….but I am :).

    I am interested to see what this doctor suggests to solve dilemmas like I described above. Thanks for the chance to win a copy!

    • 24.1
      Carol Wong says:

      Your situation shows that it is difficult with a two earner family. I hate the deductible and co-payment thing. Two years ago, I had an insurance company through work (I am retired) that had a $1,000 deductible for me and $1,000 for my husband. The year that they found something wrong in my blood, I had to pay $3,000 in addition to the deductible and the co-pays because the people who read the results were not under contract with the health insurance company. Of course, I guess I should have asked my oncologist where they send all the bone marrow biopsies to be read!

  72. 23
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  84. 11
    amandasue says:

    Thanks for the chance!

  85. 10
    Carol Wong says:

    I am extremely interested in this book. Thank you for the review, without that I would not have been aware of it. I want to read this book to find out what she saw in the military system.
    My cousin had a medical clinic and he sold it because of the insurance companies saying what the doctors should do. A long time ago when the medical health problem started, my father gave up delivering babies because the liability insurance cost too much.

    From my own personal experience, I know that the cheaper treatment can also be the wrong treatmentfor the patient. My big toe joint was completely destroyed by arthritis. The insurance comapany’s policy was to send all foot problems to podiatrist. I went and was operated on. The podiatrist told me “Don’t mess it up!!!” He knew that the whole joint was destroyed when he operated but still put in an artifical half joint.

    I suffered very pain and a limp for another two years and tried to get someone to let me see an orthopedist, No luck, so I changed insurance companies. I was referred to an orthopedic surgeon who specialized in feet. He removed the incorrect (titantium half joint) and replaced it with a metal plate with six long screws. I no longer have pain. The first operation cost me money, missed work and the continuation of pain.

    This is long, I know but I have a beef to get off my chest. Under the first insurance company, only certain blood tests were allowed for my complaint of neuropathic pain. When I changed insurance, I was finally allowed the blood test that showed that I have MGUS (a precursor to bone marrow cancer that has no cure but is treatable to extend life). So, now I know that I have it and I am monitored with blood tests every three months for change and also have a chest scan to monitor the nodules found in my right lung. Cost cutting is good, but please do not harm the patient.

    Carol Wong

    • 10.1
      Carol Wong says:

      Wow! Sorry here is my e-mail address to go with what I said on my first comment.

      CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

  86. 9
    Linda Kish says:

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    Linda Kish says:

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  88. 7
    Linda Kish says:

    As a nurse for almost 20 years and former insurance company employee, I completely agree with Jill-Elizabeth’s review. I hope I get lucky on this one.

    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

  89. 6
    dianad says:

    GFC follower. Thanks

  90. 5
    dianad says:

    I am an email subscriber. Thanks

  91. 4
    dianad says:

    My husband is interested in this book. Thanks for the wonderful giveaway

    dianad8008 AT gmail DOT com

  92. 3
    debp says:

    I am a gfc follower
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  93. 2
    debp says:

    I am a email subscriber.
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  94. 1
    debp says:

    I enjoyed your review, and the perspective you brought to it. I am afraid the debate about healthcare will be going on for years, and never be resolved. I would love to read this book.
    twoofakind12@yahoo.com

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