On Medicine, Vietnam, and War Stories

Mike Collins graduated from Notre Dame in 1971 and spent several years working as a truck driver, cab driver, construction laborer, dockworker, and freelance journalist before pursuing medicine. After receiving his M.D. from Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, he spent five years in residency at the Mayo Clinic, ultimately serving as chief resident in orthopedic surgery and embarking on a surgical career that has spanned several decades.

Mike has written two memoirs about his journey as a physician: Hot Lights, Cold Steel, recounting his time as a surgical resident, and Blue Collar, Blue Scrubs, about his days as a laborer trying to get into medical school. Since the publication of Hot Lights, Cold Steel in 2005, he has lectured around the country, and the books are on the required or recommended reading list for many medical schools and pre-medical programs.

We had the chance to talk to Mike about his latest book, a novel titled All Bleeding Stops. It’s the story of Dr. Matthew Barrett, who is sent to Vietnam as a combat surgeon shortly after completing his residency. While fiction is a departure from Mike’s previous books, he draws heavily on his experience in the operating room to unfold a story that he hopes will bring attention, both within the medical community and beyond, to the very real mental health issues encountered by physicians routinely asked to navigate the line between life and death.

Setting the story amidst the impossible circumstances that faced those serving in Vietnam makes that point in a particularly affecting way.

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