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Your Heart Is the Size of Your Fist: A Doctor Reflects on Ten Years at a Refugee Clinic

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4.44  ·  Rating details ·  290 ratings  ·  41 reviews
An absorbing and touching read, this collection of true stories is the first book by a Canadian doctor on the topic of refugee health.



Your Heart Is the Size of Your Fist draws readers into the complicated, poignant, and often-overlooked daily happenings of a busy urban medical clinic for refugees.



An Iraqi journalist whose son has been been murdered develops
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Paperback, 215 pages
Published September 26th 2017 by Brindle Glass
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Esther A. Vandergugten
Oct 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written account of the challenges and triumphs the author faced daily while working in a refugee clinic in Vancouver. Dr. Scholtens writes honestly and openly about her personal struggles to reconcile a life of privilege to the difficulties her patients experience on a daily basis.
This book opens the reader's eyes to the horrors that many of today's refugees have had to live through before coming to Canada. And then there are the problems they encounter at every turn while they
...more
Alisa Young
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written and engaging from start to finish. Dr.Scholtens shares her daily interactions with her patients at a medical refugee clinic providing a glimpse into their lifes both before and after immigrating to Canada. Honest, powerful, humorous at times, and deeply moving. This is a treasure to read and I would highly recommend this to anyone.
Mark Smith
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The primary work of patient care is not diagnosis, but compassion. This principle is made abundantly clear in Your Heart Is the Size of Your Fist: A Doctor Reflects on Ten Years at a Refugee Clinic by Martina Scholtens. I am not often brought to tears while reading, but I had to dab at my eyes a few times reading this one. Scholtens' voice is tender and uncertain, her descriptions bordering on poetry; for her patients, we are allowed a window into the trauma and confusion and lingering fears ...more
Josh Sieders
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Great book. Both light and deep, endearing and enjoyable. At times I found her honesty about the disparity between her semi-charmed kinda life and those of her patients frustrating because the tension was left unresolved... but it's probably better that way since answers are difficult and not one-size-fits-all anyway. I highly recommend!
Mark
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I liked this book. It addresses some issues that are relevant to working with refugees, but is also highly applicable to living in a multicultural society. Bridging gaps in communication due to language barriers and cultural differences and working towards cultural humility are important skills for physicians, but also for everyone else. The messages of reflection and self-care are also important.
I think the focus on individuals is what makes these kinds of books so compelling. The doctor is in
...more
Bruce Campbell
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully crafted book that pulls back the curtain on the lives of some of the most invisible in our communities: the people who are here as refugees fleeing from unspeakable situations in their homelands. Dr. Scholtens shares their stories as well as her own as her family grows and she notices the contrasts between her own upbringing, her life as a parent and young physician, the lives of her patients, and the needs of the community. Highly recommended.
Elaine
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a unique and intriguing peek into the world of a family physician and her experiences caring for refugee families while balancing the emotional and psychological demands of her career and family. The stories will expand your understanding of and empathy for newcomers to Canada.
Pgchuis
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was very honest and I found it thought-provoking and very inspiring.

Brenda
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting and well written book.
Rachel
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Such an honest reflection on this physician's experience as a student, mother, and family physician. A truly challenging, necessary, and rewarding read.
Emily
Aug 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure what this book would be like but I really enjoyed it. It gave great insight to her work without revealing too much about her patients but also how hard it can be but also rewarding it can be too.
David Field
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a very moving book. I enjoyed it very much and recommend it to everyone in this age of materialism, cynicism and crass political behaviour. We are very lucky to be living in Canada and this book illustrates the things we take for granted.
Lorraine
Dec 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very readable memoir of sorts. Scholtens reflects on her life as a doctor while working in a refugee clinic in Vancouver. She revisits with one particular family throughout the book and mentions other patients as their visit reflects components of her practice. The book is more about Scholtens as a doctor and mother than about her patients. They are the foil for her reflections and introspection. I wish there had been more depth to her interactions with the patients than her ...more
Faye
Jan 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Martina really opens your heart to the refugee. You "know" all the issues and challenges in your head but sometimes have a hard time making the connection in your heart. Martina does this well, not over dramatizing it. She is honest in her own struggles wrestling with the contrast between our Western lifestyle and the worlds where her patients have come from. The things that we take completely for granted are not givens in other parts of the world. I also appreciate her discussion on the ...more
Sara
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
James Mitchell
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent excellent book. The joys, humour, and devastating things this incredible care provider experienced. As my uncle said, a must-read for anyone who provides healthcare to others whether patient is newer Canadian or long-time. Not that it is academic-heavy, but I'm going to work to remember to check my maternalism (speaking down/making assumptions about intelligence based on characteristics, being too proud about...hm, well, not sure). And a reminder of some the unspeakably awful things ...more
Laura O’Connor
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: medicine
A soothing, grounding read. As a family doc, I relate to her stories so much. Her accounts of doctoring the refugee population range from comedic culture-clash to grave tragedy. However, a lot of what she writes relates to the general family physician-patient relationship. Reading her words about the peculiarity of what we do refreshes my reverence for the role. The book is just beautifully written. Thanks to my true friend Nat for the gift of this book. We used to read FreshMD together back in ...more
Chrissy Kaupie
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was reluctant to read this book, afraid it would be too political. Im so happy I did. This memoir reminded me of how Medicine should be practiced; with compassion & empathy. It should be a relationship of mutual trust, not like an order at a drive through restaurant. As a daughter of a Doctor who practiced family medicine for 50 years, her stories resonated with me like the stories I still hear from my Dads former patients. It is also a reminder of the risks & strengths immigrants ...more
Rick
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully-written book. Dr. Scholtens gets complicated narratives across with simple words, short sentences, beautiful metaphors (e.g. a foothold on common ground). She, like me, is troubled by the permanent damage (torture, bereavement) suffered by others and finds it has theological implications that cannot be easily explained away. And she deals with these frankly and honestly, with remarkable introspection. ...more
Ann
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Important to read a book about refugees in Canada in light of the U.S. conversations about refugees and immigrants. What is crystal clear is that the refugees do not leave their homes b/c they want to. They leave their homes b/c they have been tortured, family members killed or starved, or other reasons. They all have trauma. They all want to make lives in their new country by working hard. The medical aspects of their care are fascinating, and the stories remarkable.
Trisha
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was soo touching. An inside look at what its like to deal with multiple barriers, when dealing with refugees. Poverty, communication, compassion, mental wellness, sexual health...all these things that can be missed by a simple check in. But Dr Scholtens writes about it wonderfully. And all her detail, is amazing. ...more
Peter
Dec 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow, what great book. An intimate look at the Doctor patient interface. The patients are all refugees new to Canada. She mixes in the stories her own feelings, thoughts and reactions. Quite revealing and thought provoking.
Steven
Dec 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pretty great book! Drags at times and her train of thought is a bit all over the place but a neat story and some great points about life and human nature! I think one of the better human nature stories I have read!
Teresa Bergsma
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very thoughtful story of what being a doctor involves. Had to stop and reread some of her deep thoughts. She writes of her sister Julia byl, who I've met. My grade one teacher was Miss Aria Byl, who is also mentioned. Dutch bingo!
Alida
Every Canadian, dare I say, everyone who is a citizen of a country welcoming refuges from a war torn country, should read this book. It is eye opening to the horrors many faced before coming to Canada, and the hurdles they must navigate once they are here.
Melissa
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2018
This book is a great introduction to issues in Canadian refugee policy and services as well as a helpful primer on the importance of kindness and a wholistic approach to health for doctors and clinicians.
Amber Reichert
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So well written - a captivating narrative that eloquently describes the complexities of refugee Canadians... and insight into how to be a truly great physician
Lee Torvi
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting, informative, well written, entertaining. Each chapter tells a complete incident, so it can be read episodically.
The author is inspiring.
Leslie Patterson
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Everyone who plans to work with refugees should read this book. Its very insightful to their lives and the life of the physician who served them. ...more
Kate
Aug 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best memoirs I've ever read! Not overly-sentimental but compassionate, purposeful, and extremely relevant.
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