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Blue Collar, Blue Scrubs: The Making of a Surgeon

4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  553 ratings  ·  49 reviews
It looked for a while as if Michael Collins would spend his life breaking concrete and throwing rocks for the Vittorio Scalese Construction Company. He liked the work and he liked the pay. But a chance remark by one of his coworkers made him realize that he wanted to involve himself in something bigger, something more meaningful than crushing rocks and drinking beer.

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Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 25th 2010 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published May 26th 2009)
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Inspiring is just one of the many words I would use to describe such a detailed and powerful memoir of a simple yet hardworking man on the road to becoming a doctor. For those of us that are even remotely interested in medicine, this is a MUST read. I was truly intrigued by the comedic and brash dialogue that is used from someone who has an "M.D" next to their name other than the typical mindset of someone who thinks like a scientist.
In his first book, Dr. Michael Collins wrote about his training as an orthopedic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic. That book was gritty, real and human. When I picked up his second book, I thought it would be about his experiences in private practice. Surprisingly, it is not. It is about his life as a blue collar worker before medical school, and his years as a medical student and young husband. Dr. Collins has a fresh and original way of writing about something that has been written about many, many ...more
This book is the "prequel" to Collins' previous book about his years as a resident at the Mayo Clinic. This book starts off when he's still a construction worker and spends some time with him during that phase of his life (this was the least interesting part of the book to me--I wanted to get to the medical stuff. Although it did illustrate how different his daily life, job, and circle of friends was during this phase of his life). Like his last book, this book is full of humor, only turning ser ...more
I loved this book. Some successful pre-med (now med student) recommended this to me and I think it really did open my eyes to some things I never would have considered with all his philosophical "garble". At times I thought it was silly for him to bother mentioning that stuff since, in medicine, you've gotta do what you've gotta do. Not that anyone should be an egotistical grouch to get it done. I just certainly had some appreciation regarding his compassion for all the patients he discussed. I ...more
May 03, 2010 Ann rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone whoever considered becoming a doctor
With much self-deprecating humor, Michael Collins, recounts the events that led him down the highly unlikely path to becoming a top-notch orthopedic surgeon. Without preaching, without self-aggrandizement, he shares the secrets of becoming a doctor--drive, unbelievable hard work, and sacrifice. He doubts himself every step of the way, endearing himself to the reader as he allows us into his private thoughts and shares the concoctions of his overactive imagination when the going gets tough, proof ...more
Ross Pennie
I just finished this wonderful memoir that chronicles the transformation of a grunting, beer-drinking labourer into a full-of-heart medical doctor who ends up as a surgeon at the world-famous Mayo Clinic. Wow! What a wonderful read. The author's turn of phrase is masterful: personal, charming, vivid, self-deprecating; perfect use of simile and metaphor. I didn't want it to end. The recurrent motif of beer-drinking, and the theme of overriding financial hardship, kept the protagonist real and gro ...more
Dr. Collins is one of the best doctor/writers whose work I have had the pleasure to read. In his most recent book, Blue Collar, Blue Scrubs", Dr. Collins pens his process of deciding to pursue medicine as well as the challenges of this endeavor and the requisite schooling. In addition, he mentions his personnel life to add depth to the circumstances surrounding his experiences. I found myself laughing at several points as he described the interactions with his brother and wife. Overall, I dare t ...more
This was a great story...kind of a "rags to riches" tale of an unlikely candidate for medical school who has a desire that drives him past every roadblock to achieve his dream. The author was a construction worker with little direction in his life, when he makes the decision to become a doctor. The book outlines his experiences before and during medical school. There is a lot of medical details, and if you are at all squeamish, this might not be a comfortable read. Beyond that is the lesson of f ...more
Deborah Wilson
Dr. Collins has a friendly narrative style that is engaging. the prequel to hot lights, Cold Steel, was written and published after his successful memoir of his residency. This book details his de is ion to change his life course, and enter medical s bool. What is admirable is that once his decision is made, he stays the course, succeeding admirably. But, during his medical school years, he makes a series of self discoveries and somehow develops a greater sense of empathy and understanding for h ...more
Interesting story. He's now a doctor in Hinsdale, so I could probably look him up. Many interesting stories within each chapter. Recommended reading, especially resonates with people who live in Chicago and recognize some of the places where he spent time working or getting together with friends.
Renee Daughtry
Wow. This was something else.

It started out sort of slow and we slogged through a bunch of stuff that I kept thinking could have been edited/condensed slightly added the idea of it "asses and elbows" as it slogged through but it definitely picked up about 1/3 of the way in and I was actively thinking about the book, about reading the book, as soon as I had spare moments.

There were quite a few things towards the end; thoughts, ideas, events that are well written and incredibly emot
I really enjoyed this book and read it quickly, in about a day. I can't say that I liked it as much as the author's other book "Hot Lights, Cold Steel," because this one was a little less about the medical field and more about the author's life before and as he was just starting out in medicine. I have to say I am very impressed at how hard this man works, and it is inspiring. There's still a lot of humor, family values, wisdom, and poignancy in this book, and I definitely admire this doctor's d ...more
I really enjoyed this. Dr. Collins does a great job of telling his story of being a regular guy construction worker and transforming into a full fledged doctor. I enjoyed reading about how he struggled with certain things in the world of medicine like coming to grips with the fact that you can't save everyone. There's also some very funny scenes to that literally made me laugh out loud. I was also impressed by the prose he used to tell his story along the way. This guy really can write. I am lea ...more
I was particularly interested in this book because this man's journey to becoming a surgeon is so similar to my husband's-construction worker who realizes that he wanted to involve himself in something bigger, something more meaningful and fulfilling, and wanting to do good. I was hooked. I laughed. I cried. I was shocked. I gained a new appreciation for my husband and gained new insight. This book breathed new life into me as the wife of a medical student, because let's face it, the road is lon ...more
The author says it the best near the end of the book: "I have gone from a boozing, bruising laborer on a breakout gang to a husband, father and doctor in five years." The first book I read about Mike Collins was about the years of his residency at the Mayo Clinic. This book is the prequel. He is a gifted author as well as the other things mentioned above. I love the way he wove his crazy Irish family, his work buddies and his medical compatriots together into this true tale. His compassion for h ...more
Heidi Busch
I liked this memoir. I think the author, who is willing to tell his story and help us understand what drives him to be a doctor, did an outstanding job. I also liked that he wasn't afraid to let us see his humanity and humility as well.
Hanan Merrill
Enjoyed this for it's behind the scenes perspectives...although I skimmed over lots of his detailed descriptions of life on the job as a construction worker.
Firas Addas
Great book.

Shows how with hard work and dedication anything can be achieved.

Starting from how Dr. Collins used to work throwing rocks at a construction site, then wanting to change and become a Doctor. It is never too late to achieve a dream or goal in your life.
There are elements of local geography of Chicago's West side and suburbs that I particularly enjoyed. He had me with the fact that he was born at St. Ann's Hospital, as I was as well. The puzzle is how someone with a Notre Dame education could wind up throwing rocks!
Just hysterical. Had me reading parts out clouds to my husband and it's not very often that happens!! We both could relate to the author for. different reasons. Me, working hard to GAH where you want to be when no one thinks you can do it/being a nurse like his wife and relating to a "residency" and being from the Chicago area where the author is from so I knew the places he was mentioning and now living and. working in Rochester, MN. Hubby could definitely relate to his construction days and re ...more
Dec 19, 2011 Mike rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: aspiring doctors
Recommended to Mike by: no this title from the other book he wrote
Having read Michael Collins's other book, Hot Lights, Cold Steel, I knew what to expect going in...and I was not disappointed in the least.

This book is the pre-quel to his Hot Lights, Cold Steel book where he talks about his life in the years just before and his pre-med experiences. Here we learn about him working as a Blue Collar Worker for a construction company in Chicago. From one of his co-workers, he gets the idea of becoming a doctor so we read about his struggles and triumphs throughout
Melissa Ball
Half nostalgia and growing up in Chicago and half life experience in medical school and learning to be a doctor. Good storyteller and great sense of humor.
The beginning of the book with its crass language and drinking,was not to my liking. It does depict a certain blue collar element that may seem stereotypical, however I encountered these attitudes while working in a paper mill and also a plastics factory job, as well as having to walk by mill workers on their cigarette breaks as I walked home from school 7th through 12 grades and faced whistles and comments. You had to admire this guys determination to get into medical school as an underdog and ...more
Mike Collins, a demolition concrete worker from the west side of Chicago, takes a fellow crewmember's comment about his future to heart. He's a single, twenty-four year old college graduate who's still living at home. With no money he quits his job and starts a two-year pre-med program at a local college. He applies to eight medical schools and gets accepted to Loyola. I really enjoyed this book but almost gave up on it because of the rough language at the beginning. Don't make that mistake! It' ...more
What an entertaining read! Collins shares his experiences in transforming from a rock-thrower on a construction crew into a physician. His insight, humility and humor make this a book I couldn't put down and I now want to read his first book "Hot Lights, Cold Steel" that shares his years as a resident in orthopedic surgery.

I know if I needed an orthopod in Chicago, I'd definitely call him.
Very enjoyable account of a graduate of Notre Dame Univ in English, who after spending a few years doing brute force labor on a construction gang and drinking a lot, decides to go to medical school. This memoir of his premed (2 years of catchup intensive science) and compressed 3 years of medical school are told with humor, wisdom and empathy. Good read.
Luna Oliveira
I can't even begin to describe the significance of this book in my own life. It pushed me harder, made me believe in the impossible and helped me weed out the naysayers of my life (including fellow med students). We have too much noise in the world- learn to tune out and listen to the voice within. And read this book while you're at it.
Both of Collins' books were wonderful. Collins doesn't really allude to when he began his medical career; I'm pretty sure that he graduated medical school in the '70's.
Some parts of the books are really funny, especially anecdotes of the author's interactions with his siblings...
I really enjoyed this- and it was a nice reminder that sometimes there's a surprise behind the man or woman in the scrubs or doctor's coat- you never really can know where a person came from or what they've been though just by looking at where they are now.
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Mike Collins was born on the West Side of Chicago. His first book, HOT LIGHTS, COLD STEEL, describes his years as a surgical resident at the Mayo Clinic. His second book, BLUE COLLAR, BLUE SCRUBS, due to be released on May 26, 2009, turns back the clock to his years as a construction worker dreaming of becoming a doctor.
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More about Michael J. Collins...
Hot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon's First Years

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“I'm taking inorganic chem and physics not because I want to but because I have to. Not every doctor wants to be a scientist. Some of us just want to take care of sick people. I can't help thinking that medicine is more closely aligned to the humanities than to the sciences. I can't help thinking that I could learn more about being a good doctor from William Shakespeare than I could from Isaac Newton. After all, isn't understanding people at least as important as understanding pathology?” 12 likes
“We, who should know better, reinforce every patient's desire to hide from the reality of his own mortality.” 3 likes
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