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The raw and gripping memoir of a Black physician who confronts his past mistakes and relationships as he learns to find his own path forward
At first glance, Anthony Chin-Quee looks like a traditional success story: a smart, ambitious kid who grew up to become a board-certified otolaryngologist—an ear, nose, and throat surgeon. Yet the truth is more complicated.
As a self-described “not white, mostly Black, and questionably Asian man,” Chin-Quee knows that he doesn’t fit easily into any category. Growing up in a family with a background of depression, he struggled with relationships, feelings of inadequacy, and a fear of failure that made it difficult for him to forge lasting bonds with others.
To repair that, he began his own unflinching examination of what it means to be both a physician and a Black man today. What saved him and his sanity was not medicine but storytelling: by sharing stories from his life and career, Chin-Quee learned how powerful the truth can be in helping to forgive yourself and others as you chart a new way forward.
By turns harrowing and hilarious, honest and human, I Can’t Save You is the fascinating true story of how looking within can change you and your life for the better.
ONE: Chin-Quee, M.D. 3
TWO: A-Side—Success* 42
THREE: B-Side—The Fall 80
FOUR: You 160
FIVE: Fear of Flying 176
SIX: Rainbow Connection 212
SEVEN: Y'ain't (k)no(w) 222
EIGHT: Fatherhood 285
NINE: Eulogy 334
About the Author
Anthony Chin-Quee, M.D., is a board-certified otolaryngologist with degrees from Harvard University and Emory University School of Medicine. An award-winning storyteller with The Moth, he has been on the writing staff of FOX’s The Resident and a medical adviser for ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy.
Praise for I Can't Save You:
“Bracing… [these] astute, no-holds-barred insights offer a window into the world of medical practitioners — and also celebrate the nuanced and diverse humanity of physicians.” —NPR
“[This] book is full of wild stories from his experiences in the medical world and complex depictions of racial bias and what that means for access and opportunity, as well as honest reckonings with the meanings of care, harm, and survival in a capitalist and white-supremacist society. It’s a gripping story that is also genuine and, at times, filled with humor and levity.” —Shondaland
“His story will resonate, particularly with readers who feel as though they don’t quite fit in and those dealing with a family history of mental illness.” —Booklist
“This is a gripping, extraordinary story of one doctor's quest to find meaning, intimacy, and self-worth amid his demons and our racist and inhumane health care system. This book was so affecting that there were parts of it I read aloud just to hear Dr. Chin-Quee’s words resonate. Above all, I Can't Save You is the account of one doctor’s quest to make sense of his past and to reclaim the joy, peace, and purpose that make life worth living. It’s a testament to the life-changing power of self-compassion.” —Lucy Kalanithi, MD, FACP, Associate Professor, Stanford School of Medicine
“In his soul-baring debut, Chin-Quee, an otolaryngologist who has consulted for the TV shows Grey’s Anatomy and The Resident, offers an intimate look at his transformation from a fearful child into a confident, competent physician in a demanding specialty… A candid, stirring chronicle of struggle and success.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Raw, honest, and powerful, I Can’t Save You gives us unrestricted access to Anthony Chin-Quee's mind as he confronts his demons of identity and race. With biting humor and brutal honesty, Chin-Quee explores the question every marginalized voice has whispered into the dark: What is the cost of achieving success in a world that was not built for us? This book is essential reading for anyone interested in how we tell our truths." —Kendra James, author of Admission
“This is a powerful, gripping book that I couldn't put down. It's the kind of book that will make you join the gym just to keep out of any hospital forever. But as important, it's an honest, sometimes tragically funny tale of a young Black doctor who crossed many rivers trying to get home. You'll never look at a doctor the same after reading this book, and you'll never want to walk past a Black doctor again without wanting to salute.” —James McBride, author of The Color of Water
“Anthony Chin-Quee offers a tremendous gift in the form of his bracingly recounted memories. This book is an intimate collection of insights: into the world of care, a care for himself, and a care for others." —Caleb Gayle, author of We Refuse to Forget