Prescription Comedy: An Unlikely Antidote to Physician Burnout

Pranathi Kondapaneni, MD, author of Prescription Comedy: An Unlikely Antidote To Physician Burnout, studied medicine some time before me, but our stories are not so different. Although on an entirely different continent, and an entirely different cultural background, her experience with burnout resonates clearly with me. While her writing somewhat lacks prosaism (and has an excess of mixed metaphors), it is made up for by her unapologetic honesty.

Prescription Comedy is a memoir, presented as a medical text, and therein lies its weakness. Kondapaneni has the ability to connect with the reader, but the text is inconsistent – now vulnerable and engaging, then clinical and subdivided into headings. The headings with their truncated paragraphs give the work an especially clinical feeling.

Kondapaneni shares her run-up to burnout and delves into some evidence in the field; but I would have liked to read more of her story and less of subject matter I am already well-versed in, by virtue of being part of the target audience.

The true beauty of comedy isn’t in making people laugh but in connecting with an audience.

Pranathi Kondapaneni, MD

Prescription Comedy is an ode to comedy, in the same way that runners write odes about running and what it has taught them about life (done that, back when I used to run more). However, it runs the risk of estranging those readers who are interested in the book, but not particularly in comedy as an activity. I was eager to learn how comedy helped this doctor, but knew I was never going to attend an improv class of my own.

What I miss most in this text is a more thorough discussion on why comedy was an antidote to Kondapaneni’s burnout, and what it can teach us about preventing and treating burnout in the wildly heterogenous medical community – because burnout, as with most mental health disorders, has as many variations of “antidote”, as it has patients. 

That said, Prescription Comedy is brief enough to read for its unique perspective alone. I would recommend it to healthcare workers who have tried the textbook approaches to burnout and found them lacking; and who are in the mental space to consider unconventional courses of action.

I received an eARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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