William Lynwood Montell, Tales from Kentucky Doctors

William Lynwood Montell. Tales from Kentucky Doctors. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 2008. pp256 cloth $24.95, ebook $24.95.

Donald E. Clare

In today’s modern world of advancing electronic technology and data management, health care delivery, compared to that of one or two generations ago, has changed just as much as automobile design and manufacturing has changed since Henry Ford’s first Model T replaced the horse and buggy. But not all change is good. Sometimes change neglects to preserve the human element and, in so doing, forfeits such characteristics as caring, dedication, vocation, commitment, and sacrifice.

William Lynwood Montell has managed to take the reader back a generation or two to experience a dying, if not dead, breed of health care professionals before government, insurance companies and ridiculous litigation invaded and extirpated the general practitioner. This highly entertaining and scholarly folk history collection of anecdotal contributions from a number of small-town USA and Appalachian country doctors, who often times are the sons and daughters of doctors who practiced in the same area, brings back real life care and concern as the motivating factors for the country doctor. Often times the doctor who delivered a baby in its mother’s bed at home was the same doctor who sat all night at the bedside when that child was delirious with fever and then years later removed its appendix on the kitchen table when that child had become a young adult.

In this day of cyber communication and data storage, along with instantaneous communication between two or more parties at any given time, there is no guarantee that the electronic historical and cultural records of today will even survive in perpetuity. There is no guarantee that the electronic historical and cultural records
of today will even survive in perpetuity.

Tales from Kentucky Doctors provides the reader of folk history and popular culture with an opportunity to study and enjoy a bygone but very essential element of the care and feeding of rural and small town humanity. A few readers will relate to the humor and pathos of the country doctor from their own life experiences, and that will make the reading experience a pleasant one. Younger adults will read the same passages with doubt, disbelief, and suspicion. They only know today’s medical care systems in which you see a different specialist for every body part or system; in which you actually see the doctor for only a brief moment; in which you must actually pay money before even being seen; in which your insurance company actually dictates what tests and procedures you will receive; in which that same insurance company mandates only so many admission days for each coded diagnosis. Consequently, such young people’s memories of health care delivery experiences often won’t be as pleasant or compelling. Enjoy Tales from Kentucky Doctors for its warmth, humanity, reality, and humor. Your own health care memories are only going to get worse.

Review by Donald E. Clare, R.N.
Emergency Room Nurse in Northern Kentucky for 32 years
Local Historian and local history researcher and author
11646 Lower River Road
Rabbit Hash Historical Society
Rabbit Hash, Kentucky 41091


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