A young, Indian doctor deals with an ethical dilemma in her first year of training which determines the course of her life and career—that is, in the new novel “The White Coat Diaries,” but the circumstances of the story are not exactly fiction.
Madi Sinha is a local doctor who works at an orthopedic center in Philly. The young mother spent her first year of residency back in the early 2000’s in the city, but her experience was much less than ideal. Though, she didn’t realize until she left just how bad and peculiar her situation was, especially on her mental health.
“For lack of a better term, it was what we call a toxic program—meaning that it just was minimal supervision,” says Sinha. “Traditionally [that year] is very difficult—I think it’s difficult for everyone. But the hospital I was at was particularly bad. It was just a really tough year because of that.”
It wasn’t until years later, when Sinha was first pregnant and had some downtime that she really began to unpack the emotional toll that year took. While taking a local writing course, the fictionalized story based on real experiences began to be created in the form of a writing assignment.
“I mostly just didn’t want to forget what had happened,” explains Sinha. “One of the requirements [for class] was you had to be working on a novel. That had never occurred to me as something that I wanted to do, but I was willing to do it for this class because that was just what you needed. I just started writing the story of what happened during that year, and It just kind of worked out— I got positive feedback from [the class.] I knew that they were interested because they would email me if I was late turning in my 200 words and say, I want to see what happens next in your story. That was kind of when I knew I had something, because prior to that, I didn’t really think there was going to be much interest in a story about medicine and about hospitals for people who weren’t doctors.”
In modern entertainment, there are plenty of medical shows that have huge followings. “Grey’s Anatomy” is still going strong with its steamy romances and drama, and you’ll still hear people talk about the wit and storylines from other hospital-driven favorites such as “Scrubs.” However, in the literary field, it’s hard to find a novel based on doctors and medicine that can hold as much interest. Until now.
“The medicine in the book is all very true to life. Pretty much every medical case that I talk about in the book, it’s based on either something that I went through or something that someone I knew went through. The place that I took liberties was with this main character that I invented, and her family. I invented, those characters, and those characters are all not based on reality.”
After finishing the book she started as a past time, Sinha then simply googled publishing companies to get started—and there were a few eager offers presented after she was able to get her novel to them.
Most importantly though, the story hits on a few points that are relevant now more than ever. “The White Coat Diaries” puts an emphasis on medical worker’s mental health. Obviously, the pandemic has hit people hard in physical sickness, but the effects it takes emotionally, especially for those who are on the front lines, is quite impactful.
“I feel like in medicine, we’ve been having this conversation about burnout and how to correct it. But I think that everyone needs to be having this conversation, not just healthcare workers. Even if you’re not a doctor, you’ve been to a doctor and the quality of the healthcare that you get is directly related to the emotional and mental health of the person providing the care for you. So it’s relevant to everyone,” explains Sinha. “There isn’t a person that this issue doesn’t touch. I think we need to be having a national conversation about it because it’s reaching a crisis point as we go through this pandemic and we don’t have a national strategy to address it. We sort of leave it up to hospitals to try to build wellness programs, which aren’t doing nearly enough. So, I think that we need to be having a national conversation about how to fix this incredibly vital and urgent problem.”
Sinha’s “The White Coat Diaries” is available to purchase now, but the doctor and author also has a book deal for two more books to come out through Berkley (under Penguin Books USA) in 2022 and 2023.
“The burnout is what I want people to take away from it, but I want them to know what it really feels like to go through the training to become a doctor. I think that there’s this sense that it’s difficult, but I don’t think that people really understand why it’s difficult. People understand that it’s long hours and you don’t sleep, but there’s a whole other emotional level to that,” finishes Sinha. “For example, what it means to care for someone and what that does to you over a long period of time— the repetitive stress of that. That’s what I tried to show in the book and it’s as true to life as I could [make it]. I really hope people read the book and get a sense of the depth of experience , and come away feeling like they understand just the complexity of that expense.”
To learn more information about Madi Sinha and “The White Coat Diaries,” visit madisinha.com