On Call

A Doctor's Days and Nights in Residency

St. Martin's Griffin

On Call begins with a newly-minted doctor checking in for her first day of residency--wearing the long white coat of an MD and being called "Doctor" for the first time. Having studied at Yale and Dartmouth, Dr. Emily Transue arrives in Seattle to start her internship in Internal Medicine just after graduating from medical school. This series of loosely interconnected scenes from the author's medical training concludes her residency three years later.

During her first week as a student on the medical wards, Dr. Transue watched someone come into the emergency room in cardiac arrest and die. Nothing like this had ever happened to her before-it was a long way from books and labs. So she began to record her experiences as she gained confidence putting her book knowledge to work.

The stories focus on the patients Dr. Transue encountered in the hospital, ER and clinic; some are funny and others tragic. They range in scope from brief interactions in the clinic to prolonged relationships during hospitalization. There is a man newly diagnosed with lung cancer who is lyrical about his life on a sunny island far away, and a woman, just released from a breathing machine after nearly dying, who sits up and demands a cup of coffee.

Though the book has a great deal of medical content, the focus is more on the stories of the patients' lives and illnesses and the relationships that developed between the patients and the author, and the way both parties grew in the course of these experiences.

Along the way, the book describes the life of a resident physician and reflects on the way the medical system treats both its patients and doctors. On Call provides a window into the experience of patients at critical junctures in life and into the author's own experience as a new member of the medical profession.


Read an Excerpt

"The chemistry that happens between doctors and patients, the natural sympathy that is so strong in some interactions and so elusive in others, I sensed intuitively when I first started clinical work, but began to try to analyze only later. I have come to think that doctors and patients, like lovers or friends, can have a deep instinct to connect with each other in some instances and not in others. You can work around the connection, care for someone without it, learn to modulate it; the bond can appear suddenly after a long time of being absent. but the basic chemistry is real."


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Praise for On Call

“With humor, humility, and a gentle wit, Transue leads us into the bizarre, bone-rattling world of medical training. Through her eyes, and her honest, engaging prose, we have a rare opportunity to experience the growth of a true healer. While readers may be lucky to have Transue as their guide, her patients are even luckier.”
- Danielle Ofri M.D., Ph.D, author of Singular Intimacies: Becoming a Doctor at Bellevue and This Side of Doctoring

"Everyone who sees a doctor needs to read this book. Dr. Transue, through her stories, gives a realistic understanding of the pressures, perseverance and strength required for students of medicine to succeed as practitioners."
- Dr. Lewis G. Maharam, medical director for the New York City Marathon

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Emily R. Transue, M.D. is a native of Toledo, Ohio. She attended Yale University, where she received her B.S. in 1992 with distinction in Biology. As an undergraduate, she co-organized the D.E.M.O.S. program for science teaching in elementary schools, which received several state and national teaching awards and was featured on "Good Morning, America." She received her M.D. from Dartmouth Medical School in 1996, and was the 1996 recipient of the Pharnmacia and Upjohn Achievement Award for distinction in Internal Medicine. She did her residency training in Internal Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle, and was then awarded a Chief Residency position, which she completed in July of 2000. She works as a general internist at a multispecialty clinic in downtown Seattle.


Available Formats and Book Details

On Call

A Doctor's Days and Nights in Residency




St. Martin's Griffin