Medicine, McGill, and Growing Up Jewish in Montreal
The witty and engaging memoir of a child of Jewish immigrants who changed cancer research worldwide.
Growing up on St Lawrence Boulevard, Phil Gold never aspired to be a doctor. But working as an encyclopedia salesman, a bottle washer at Molson, and a fur-coat schlepper in textile factories helped him realize and embrace his parents’ desire for him to follow that path.
Looking back at his short wander from the Main to nearby McGill University and the Montreal General Hospital, Gold coins a new word, fortunome, to evoke his sense of a lucky life: “Our genome comes from our parents; our environment or epigenome shapes the expression of who we are; but without a good fortunome, life’s odds turn against us.” A born storyteller, Gold recounts the sights and sounds of a bygone era – horse-drawn milk carts, Yiddish neighbourhoods full of Holocaust survivors, furniture chopped up to keep the home fires burning, sacks of grain lugged off ships in the harbour, antisemitism and ethnic street-fighting, the padlocked doors of the Red Scare, his father’s first car. Gold tells the story of dating and marrying the love of his life, Evelyn, studying under the brilliant Sir Arnold Burgen, and his discovery of CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) in a clear, fast-moving narrative that grips and fascinates. Gold’s Rounds also includes unforgettable stories from six decades of treating patients at the General, scenes from the founding of the famous Goodman Cancer Institute, and reflections on the physician's role and the meaning of a good death.
By turns funny, wise, and heartrending, Gold’s memoir of a life well lived will be cherished by both medical professionals and general readers.