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Blue Collar, Blue Scrubs: The Making of a Surgeon

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  1,277 ratings  ·  92 reviews
It looked for a while like 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.

In his
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published May 26th 2009 by St. Martin's Press
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India M. Clamp
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: surgery
From an Irish-Catholic construction worker downing beer, cursing and throwing rocks to becoming an orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Michael J. Collins (the oldest of 8 Irish-boys) delineates how his Mother “made a deal with God” to gain him admission to Loyola Medical School. Use of “rat” and putting stuff in it some could describe as unholy?

“They are gods...I want to...blithely throw off phrases like BUN/creatinine ratio...aortic important things like delivering quadruplets/repairin
Jul 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Aug 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5, personally a 5, due to my special interest in medicine. While reading this book, I smiled, I laughed, and also had tears come to my eyes. A non-fiction account of a young man's journey into the medical profession. Beautifully written, very very funny accounting about his Chicago Irish extended family. And a heartfelt account of a young man's journey through medical school and internship. Loved it.
Aug 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Ross Pennie
Aug 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Being a Dr. I love medical books like this. This was the best I have read since some of Atul Gawande's books. I immediately bought Mike's other books. What I liked was 1) the writing is EXCELLENT, 2) the reality of the human side of medicine which is often lost in books like this, 3) the honesty, 4) the blue collar aspect - I did similar work but not to this extent.

This reads almost like a Rocky story - you are always rooting for Mike. The family stories are very funny as well.

My only criticism
Jun 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Inspirational !
This book is hilarious and empowering at the same time. You can relate to a lot of stories that Micheal told if you are /were a medical student - and I did.
His story is different yet so similar. In his journey, Michael had many experiences that left him introspecting.I have same conflicts over so many things, and it was comforting to know that I was not alone.
His story telling is quite remarkable. You will feel all the highs and the lows.
His diligence towards his goal was impress
Jun 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Rebecca Abbott
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written by a doc who came from a non traditional background, worked his ass off even to qualify for med school due to his lack of science classes because he was busy breaking concrete and slinging rocks for a construction company. Amazingly, he liked the work, but came to a realization one day after a fellow worker challenged him about his future that there was more to life than slinging rocks. After all, he had been to college and the urge to become a doctor was growing.
Insightful ,
Sabrina Rose
Apr 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Funny, well written book with a clear narrative. However, I was expecting a lot more. Particularly, I wanted to read so much more of his transformation from construction worker to doctor. After all, the book is called Blue Collar, Blue Scrubs. Though he grapples with the difference between himself and the typical premed student and the things that he witnesses which shape the type of doctor and person he wants to be, something was lacking. This book reads more as a synopsis of things that happen ...more
Christian Acosta
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Dr. Collins describes his journey from working as a rock-thrower at a construction company to his overnight shifts as an Orthopedic Surgery resident with humor and humbling sincerity.
The overall message is a resounding one: Do not give up! Imagine being a 24-year old man straight out of college, and working 12-hour shifts rebuilding the highways of Chicago. Every day begins at 4:30 am; work officially begins at 7:00 am, but you are breaking concrete at 6:00 am 'g
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow, this guy is amazing. Not only did he transform himself from a manual laborer into a surgeon by working non-stop for five years, but he is also a thoughtful, compassionate person and an excellent author. I laughed out loud at his deadpan descriptions of his family and his prodigious appetite. Those descriptions are the epitome of "show don't tell". His dialog, from everybody from the rock throwers and bartenders to esteemed surgeons, is on the nose. This book is inspiring for anybody who wan ...more
May 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Some fascinating insights into the making of a physician. Collins starts the memoir with a cheerful accounting of his days in the construction trades as a laborer. He doesn't make it clear why a young man with a Bachelor's degree is making his living tossing chunks of broken concrete into a truck and some explanation would have helped give the narrator credibility. The writing style is crisp and frequently humorous but I was anxious for the story to develop more quickly.

When it does take the maj
Marto Mugss
Jul 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
A succinctly laid out yet inspiring read about Collins, a former casual laborer in a construction site and later a medical school student.
He is the oldest of eight boys in a closely knit Irish-Catholic family. During his stint as a casual laborer, he felt vague if not pressing yearning for something more meaningful in his life which eventually coalesced into his lifelong dream of becoming a medical doctor, albeit as what many would call a 'late bloomer'.
Being in the medical field, I could relate
Deborah Wilson
Sep 19, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Jan 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Emily Pope
Jan 03, 2017 rated it liked it
This is another book where I was left feeling a little disappointed. I was hoping that the book would go more into the details of learning to be a surgeon, and less focus on the author getting into med school itself. The first 1/3 or even close to 1/2 of the book is discussing the process of getting into med school.

Also, as a veterinary student, I found myself laughing at the amount of complaining about anatomy, spending all this time in anatomy lab, anatomy lab is so hard... I couldn't help but
Dec 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Just hysterical. Had me reading parts out loud 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 reflec ...more
May 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Relaxing to read

I'm really curious about "the making of a surgeon" b/c I love to become a neurosurgeon. He has a really good sense of humor, I think the worker environment nurtured it very well :) . His frank, sociable, hard-working, humble characteristics erase my perspective of a surgeon as a cold, quite, gifted one. He wrote about his memoir for about 10 years. It's not a so long time, but what matter are his dedication to all his work, his determination to his dream. "Hard work always pays o
Feb 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs, non-fiction
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
Jul 08, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Feb 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
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Like their father, grandfather and great grandfather before them, Mike and his seven brothers were born on the West Side of Chicago. Mike worked his way through college shoveling furnaces at South Bend Foundry during the school year and driving trucks in the summer. Following graduation from the University of Notre Dame, where he was a less-than-stellar member of the hockey team, Mike spent severa ...more

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