Oct 22, 2019
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
These two books by doctors could not be more disparate. Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert by Erica M. Elliot is a memoir of a woman in search of herself and her life's purpose. The second, Nefertiti's Secret by noted local plastic surgeon, Stanley Jacobs, is a quickie memoir, an adventure, a history, a mystery, a treatise on the physiology of the skin and ultimately an infomercial. Both books are brief and to the point, no romantic meanderings. Doctors are busy people.
When teacher, Erica Elliot, first encountered her Navajo students on an Arizona reservation she was perplexed by what she construed as rudeness and disinterest. But when she began to learn their language, a very difficult one, in fact, it was used as code in WWII, she becomes more sensitive to their culture. She is able to participate in sacred peyote healing rites some of the "miracles" she observed she still stands behind even now with an M.D. under her belt. One summer she stays at her friend's parent's sheep ranch. There, the working sheep dogs are so ravenous that when a cat delivers a litter of kittens they devour them. Later, a pup scampering through a celebration becomes the entree. When the author finds out what she had eaten she vomits. A working dog deserves a decent meal and not to be the meal. Up to this point, I was euphoric about the tribes' closeness to nature, their environmental concerns and their spirituality. These customs shattered all my illusions. I am a champion of cultural diversity as long as it doesn't involve pain, for example, female genital mutilation and eating dogs. Anyway, the book is well written. It follows Dr. Elliot's life's journey from the Arizona desert back home to New England then to the Ecuadorian mountains and finally to New Mexico where she practices today.
Dr. Jacobs was fascinated by ancient Egyptian civilization at an early age. He did all the practical things first before he indulged in his passion. He went to medical school, met an attractive nurse, married and had two sons and then he came upon an old manuscript, the Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus. Apparently the Egyptians, some three thousand years ago, were master chemists. In one passage there is a section entitled "Recipe for Transforming an Old Man into a Youth". As a physician and one crucially interested in skin, this was catnip. But, there was one ingredient in the recipe that defied translation and it was integral to the formula for this miraculous serum. This mystery prompted three excursions to Egypt before he was able to identify the missing element. Then he contacted an assembly of friends who were fellow doctors, chemists and businessmen and they developed a product. In experiments, not content with just pictorial results of visible rejuvenation, he found in Germany a machine that actually measures skin elasticity. He then had scientific proof of the serums efficacy. Mendelic acid makes skin look younger and specific information tells exactly how it does it. This book, by the way, has the most gorgeous cover, Queen Nefertiti is displayed in all her breathtaking beauty.
Both doctors were driven by their quests, how they got to their goals is what captivates the reader.
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