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Introducing the Dean’s Bookshelf

Introducing the Dean’s Bookshelf

Mouctika Paluri, a second-year student on the Dallas campus, is the inspiration for this blog post and for the Dean’s Bookshelf. Recently, she interviewed me for the student publication Synapse, which will appear in August. One of her questions was about how I get to know students.

Getting to know you is important to me. As you may have heard me say at the White Coat Ceremony, I want to know each of you. I want to know your names. I want to know where you come from and where you are hoping to go. When you match, I want to know why you chose your particular specialty. If you see me around campus, please introduce yourself.

decorative graphic, college of medicine dean's bookshelf

Getting to know all the students is challenging because we have a distributed campus. I try to meet everyone as you arrive in Bryan for the M1 year. I like to have lunch with the medical students on the Bryan campus each quarter and I visit the students on the other campuses each time that I am in your city. I also communicate through strategic updates and Vital Record, and this blog. If you follow my Twitter account you can always see where I am and the things that are on my mind.

There are other ways that I will try to get to know each of you. I participate in the Women in Medicine and the Pediatric Interest groups. I hope that if you are interested in these areas, you will join us. Another way that I have gotten to know students is through what I like to call on the road mentoring. I travel almost every week and I am fortunate that someone else is usually doing the driving. I take the opportunity to have phone calls with students while I am in the car. We have talked about classes, scheduling electives, away rotations, career choices, health care in Texas and the U.S., and many other topics. If you would like to chat please contact my assistant, Pat Mayland at

Mouctika’s question made me start to think about other ways I could get to know the students and maybe we could all get to know each other a little bit more. In my family, books are very important. We learn a lot about people by sharing books that are meaningful. Books give insight into how we see the world and what we value.

To help us get to know one another, I have donated a selection of books to create the “Dean’s Bookshelf.” The initial home of these books will be in the Medical Sciences Library (MSL) on the Bryan campus in the Health Professions Education Building. Stop by to browse, or if you are on another campus, click a book link on the full listing of books found on the Medical Sciences Library Medicine Guide to request a library copy be sent to you.

The Dean’s Bookshelf includes fiction, nonfiction, poetry and children’s books. The books usually either address timely issues in medicine or are books that I have personally enjoyed. By reading these books, you can get to know the field of medicine and me a little better.

I am a pediatrician and an infectious disease specialist and you will see some of this in the books I have chosen. I am interested in health care access, especially for vulnerable populations, the cost of health care, medical education—especially how we teach students to understand human beings—and biomedical research. On the personal side, I loved reading with my children when they were young and made early childhood literacy an important part of my pediatric practice. You will see a lot of “kids’ books” in my selections. I encourage you to take a look at these. They are quick reads and have something to teach us. The Empty Pot, which examines the rewards of failure and the importance of telling the truth is vital for physicians and the back cover of Chrysanthemum provides one of the most important lessons for pediatricians and really all humans. I grew up in South Texas and I love to cook, so I have shared In My Family/En Mi Familia and one of my favorite cookbooks, The Homesick Texan. Both remind me of growing up and you can’t go wrong with any of the enchilada recipes in the cookbook.

I hope sharing books will become a tradition in the College of Medicine. I invite students and faculty members to make recommendations to me, and I’ll add your selections to the shelf for others to enjoy.

The Dean’s Bookshelf includes the following books: 

  • A Not Entirely Benign Procedure: Four Years as a Medical Student, Perri Klass
  • Chrysanthemum, Kevin Henkes
  • Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, Alfred Lansing
  • Every Patient Tells a Story: Medical Mysteries and the Art of Diagnosis, Lisa Sanders
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling (favorite)
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling (my favorite)
  • How Doctors Think, Jerome Groopman
  • How Healing Works: Get Well and Stay Well Using Your Hidden Power to Heal, Wayne Jonas
  • In My Family/En Mi Famila, Carmen Lomas Garza
  • Mischling : a novel, Affinity Konar
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World, Tracy Kidder
  • Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA, Brenda Maddox
  • Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, David Quammen
  • The Cost Conundrum: What a Texas town can teach us about health care, Atul Gawande
  • The Empty Pot, Demi
  • The Homesick Texan, Lisa Fain
  • The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying, Nina Riggs
  • The Hot Zone, Richard Preston
  • The Gene: An Intimate History, Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot
  • The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher, Lewis Thomas
  • The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures, Anne Fadiman (Chapter 1 is a must)
  • Thirst: Poems, Mary Oliver (When I am Among the Trees is my favorite)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  • When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi

Many of our M1s will get the opportunity to visit the Dean’s Bookshelf during the Practice of Medicine scavenger hunt, as well as a more in-depth tour of the MSL with Librarian Sheila Green later in the week.

Please share with me your aspirations and your recommendations for the Dean’s Bookshelf. I wish you a successful semester and look forward to getting to know each of you.

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