Hot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon's First Years
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Hot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon's First Years

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  1,156 ratings  ·  124 reviews
When Michael Collins decides to become a surgeon, he is totally unprepared for the chaotic life of a resident at a major hospital. A natural overachiever, Collins' success, in college and medical school led to a surgical residency at one of the most respected medical centers in the world, the famed Mayo Clinic. But compared to his fellow residents Collins feels inadequate...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published February 1st 2005 by St. Martin's Press
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This was one of my favorite “doctor” books. Dr. Collins is an amazing author who brings truth and humor to his life as a resident. In stark contrast to “Intern Blues”, Dr. Collins isn’t caught whining; rather, he understands his job is tough, the hours long, and the decisions difficult with a sense of journey. That is, he engrosses himself in his life and enjoys the ride.

You really can feel his emotions when he succeeds, fails, is uncertain. You grow in compassion and respect for his supportive...more
I thought it was really cool when I read the description of Collins on the back flap and saw that he has 12 children. He’s Irish Catholic, I guess, but he doesn’t come across as the least bit religious in the book. I think he and his wife don’t have so many children for religious reasons so much as because they just love having children. In any case, this description of the four years of orthopedic surgery residency at the Mayo Clinic is awesome. It’s very engrossing, with lots of medical detail...more
"I was a counterfeit, an impostor who had infiltrated this society of brilliant surgeons. [...] I would have thrown myself on the floor and asked them to shoot me and put me out of my misery." When I read these lines, I knew that this book was the real thing.

There's something in Collins' self-deprecation and love of his work that reminds me of James Herriot, but the humour of "Hot Lights, Cold Steel" is starker, though no less funny. The laughter is there, of course, but it sounds more like a m...more
Dr. Collins is kind of like the Augusten Bourroughs/David Sedaris of medical writing. Some of the stories are funny (the patient with a dildo stuck up his butt), others are heartbreaking (an 18 year old girl with cancer of the ilium). The book is the first medical writing I've read that is more than just clinical stories but also gives insight into what the life of a resident is like -- the long hours, the low pay, the lapses in confidence -- all the sacrafices that must be made for training to...more
Dr. Collins could easily launch a second career as an author. This book is the story of his four years as an orthopedic resident at the Mayo Clinic--the final four years before he was officially labled "MD." At the same time, he and his wife were having their first four children! (They topped out at twelve, according to his biography on the book jacket.) The book left me wishing he would write a book covering the rest of his life and career since then. This book made me laugh out loud, cry, and...more
Hot Nights, Cold Steel is the autobiography of an orthopedic residency. Dr. Michael J. Collins came to the prestigious Mayo Clinic out of medical school feeling unprepared, but through 2 years as a junior resident and 2 as a senior (and then chief) resident, he found the experience worthwhile. Collins manages to pepper the story with salty humor despite the hard times, including horrific traumas, extreme sleep deprivation, and moonlighting at a rural ER to make ends meet for his growing family....more
Jun 28, 2009 Carmen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Karishma
This is a book about a resdient at the Mayo Clinic in Orthopedics. It's about his struggles and his own doubts about why he was picked to get a residency in one of the top programs in the nation! So far, this book is proving incredibly interesting - although I must admit his residency experience appears to have been a LOT more demanding than mine!

Despite the sleepless nights and such - there is something to be said for the insanity and friendships that bloom in such a time! Some of my best frien...more
Told through flashback, Michael J. Collins’ Hot Lights, Cold Steel is a sleep-deprived romp through four years of orthopedic residency at the Mayo Clinic. Although published more than 20 years after his days as a resident, readers will feel as though they are along for the ride with Collins and his colleagues. He walks us through his thought process as he confronts his first views of surgery and many sleepless nights moonlighting in a rural emergency room. While the book doesn’t give great insig...more
In my continuing obsession with medical student/doctor memoirs (begun last spring with Atul Gawande's wonderful books) comes this memoir about a doctor who used to be a construction worker. Collins only started medical school in his mid-twenties, and this book is primarily a story about his four years of residency as an aspiring orthopedic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic.

This book was different from Gawandes' (and probably most other medically-themed memoirs) primarily in its tone, because Collins is...more
Jan 29, 2008 Jamie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Medical students, Residents, or the families of either one
Recommended to Jamie by: My husband
I loved this book because it helped me see what was ahead for my family in the next few years during residency. It also scared me to know what I was up against. The ortho residents in this book had a very close friendship and I found myself hoping my husband would have the same friendships with those he trains with. Needless to say, I am grateful for the new 80 hours work week laws--even if they usually go over anyway.
Jun 15, 2008 Collin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pre-med students, everyone
Shelves: medicine, non-fiction
A very entertaining book about a man's surgical residency. It's informative if you're interested in medicine yourself (as is the case for me), but deserves to be read on the merit of it's entertainment value alone. At times hilarious, touching, and tragic. It's a rather short memoir, but you find yourself really caring about the author and his story by the end. Read it all in a few days and didn't want it to end.
Maggie Whitaker
Hot Lights, Cold Steel was a truly amazing book. This novel was about Michael Collins four year surgical residency. Through a documentary novel, Collins shared his personal resident experience with the reading public. It described the ups and downs of the medical field, and a 100% true story of what the process of becoming a professional surgeon is really like. Being a pupil very much interested in medicine, it only fired my passion. Just another reason why I found this book so intriguing. It ha...more
This book was even better than expected, interlaced with dark humor. I turned the tv off and read the book all evening! A very likable group of would-be surgeons, indeed!
Jun 14, 2008 Cristin rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone
Incredible,inspiring and heart-breaking. I laughed and I cried.
This book was like a breath of fresh air. My husband and kids got used to me chuckling every few pages as I was reading this book over the last couple of days. I love this author, and I love his family. Why didn't you put a picture of Patti and the kids in the book?? :) It's a medical autobiography about this doctor's years as an orthopedic surgery resident at the Mayo Clinic, but also has a beautiful message about marriage and family. I loved how Dr. Collins interspersed humor and tenderness in...more
A great memoir of a former cab-driver turned orthopedic surgeon. This book captures his four years of orthopedic residency at one of the nation's most prestigious hospitals. It's not at all glamorous or high-paid as one might think. You come to realize that doctors are humans just like the rest of us.

Dr. Collins writes in such an engaging, funny, easy to read manner without a lot of medical jargon or posturing to make himself look good. He comes off as an easy-going, down to earth person. You...more
my brother recommended this book, as a look into what his life will be like for the next few years (he began his residency in orthopedic surgery this month). i really enjoyed the book. i appreciated Dr. Collins stories and explanation of the life lessons he learned through the patients he treated and experiences he had. i think my favorite is chapter 32, the end of his 3rd year...he was treating a little boy who had broken his arm, and a cast tech helped remind him of probably one of the most va...more
Great story of a 4 year orthopedic surgery residency from Dr. Michael Collins. He completed his residency at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Rochester. About 1/3 of the way through, I realized that I had already read this book, but I also remembered how much I had enjoyed it so I plodded on. He goes from the very real position of feeling like he knows nothing when he starts his residency to confidence and the responsiblity of his own service as chief resident at the end of 4 years. Deeply religio...more
I absolutely loved this book. Collins' writing style is witty, funny, and engaging. The stories he tells are by turns humorous, dramatic, gruesome and horrifying -- made all the more so by the fact that they're true. Although it's a memoir, it reads like a novel. I came to care deeply for all the characters (though I hate to call them that), including Collins' family, his colleagues, and his patients. I can't remember the last time I was so tense while reading; the book has the makings of a grea...more
Maybe it is because my husband is going to be a surgeon and we are on the cusp of residency years, but I thought this book was really interesting. It made me think a lot about the role, responsibility and pressures surgeons face. It also made me weary of having a missing husband for the next five years!

"We had been training for years to become surgeons. We had excelled in college. We had excelled in medical school. Our lives has been one success after another until we woke up one day, and there...more
Bailee Berry
I adored this book. By far it was one of the best 'medical books' I have every read. Dr. Collins is an amazing author and surgeon who delightfully portrayed his profession with honesty and insight. I would recommend this to anyone interested in any sort of medical profession.
Shonna Froebel
This is the second memoir of a doctor's residency that I've read lately, and I found it just as engaging as the first, although in many ways it is quite different. Collins was a orthopedic surgery resident at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. This memoir tells of his four years there. He talks about his relationship with other residents, his relationship with other hospital staff, the patient cases he dealt with, and his personal life. One thing that I found eye-opening was the very low pay the resi...more
Andy Lamp
This book is a great personal memoir of a surgeons first few years. Dr. Collins writes very honestly and very well about the struggles and challenges he faced on his route to becoming an orthopedic surgeon.
Big Shell
"I'm not god" is quite possibly the most irritating pseudohumblebrag anyone could ever come up with. There are some great moments, but most of what's in here are formulated and stale. The sort of thing way too common in doctor autobiographies - more about what the writers think the readers want to hear.

Some reflective moments were great. Vaguely disturbed by how casual Collins is about reguarly breaking confidentiality to entertain the wife (but I guess in their culture it counts as "good famil...more
I like the Gawande books a little more, but I enjoyed this one. The four-year transformation from medical student to surgeon is an interesting process: Technically -- what don't I know that I need to know to be a great surgeon? Practically -- how do I develop the skills to physically perform surgery? -- Emotionally -- how do I deal with life-shattering events and decisions on a daily basis and in a decently healthy manner? And to all of this, throw a home life and sleeplessness into the mix, jus...more
I had read Collins' second book, "Blue Collar, Blue Scrubs", so I was excited to read this sequel. I recommend to anyone who reads these books to read them in that order.

Collins continues his story with a journal about his four years of internship and residency at the Mayo Clinic. While the stories from the trenches and his experiences were fascinating, what really impressed me was his humor and humility. Collins is a man who understands his value system and he never wavers from his faith, his f...more
You know, as an RN, I really didn't get on board with this book. Yes, the life of a resident is hard and grueling; however, it seems as though once residency is done, the hardships sorta disappear. I work in an institution that is top in this country and have many friends who are now the consultants - life doesn't suck for them. It's 4 years of hell, yes, but I guess I would like him to now write the book about the cars he drives, the financial hardships he has, the sleepless nights, etc. I bet...more
I actually really enjoyed this one. A lot.
Continues the story of the medical education of former construction worker Michael Collins, beginning with his arrival at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota to start his orthopedic surgery residency. Underpaid and overworked, driving junker cars and having to moonlight to bring in enough money to keep his wife and ultimately 4 children under age 4 in food and clothing, he functions sleep deprived and for the most part in constant fear. This is a record of the old style residency and how it...more
I used to read a lot of doctor-type books, especially intern stories, and this on was in that genre. The author, an orthopedic surgeon, tells of his four years of residency at the Mayo Clinic. I don't know how those guys do it, with the small amount of sleep and the large amount of responsibility, but Dr. Collins story was a good one. I think I got started reading these types of books when I read Intern, by Dr. X, way back when, and I'm still reading them. But I also read books about former nuns...more
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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...
Blue Collar, Blue Scrubs: The Making of a Surgeon Hot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon's First Years

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“At times it felt like I was killing myself. And yet the only thing I could recall at that moment was how much fun it had been, and how wonderful it was to do this for a living.” 7 likes
“Why do we always think our pain will be less if we can make others suffer more?” 5 likes
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