Review of ‘Adventures of a Disease Detective’ by Mark White

An unusual and entertaining memoir of an epidemiologist who worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Adventures of a Disease Detective by Mark White

I finished this memoir in only a couple of days, which shows how readable the book is despite its somewhat narrow focus. Much of the book is set in the Philippines, where the author’s wife Budsy was from. They had met at a hospital in the US, where they worked together and fell in love. Many dramatic adventures followed, including the experience of coup attempts and the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. Later in the book he also worked in Uganda. Sadly, the author relates how Budsy, who is a formidable energetic character in the book, became ill and passed away. Twelve years in the making, this memoir was generally a good read, an enthusiastic tribute to loved ones and colleagues, and was interesting as an exploration of life as an American in the Philippines. I felt that the content did not quite match the title. ‘Adventures’, yes, but there were not many diseases discussed, while the ‘detective’ part could have been more prominent. Politics and bureaucracy seemed to be an overriding theme, which did not really grip me, although other readers could potentially find it fascinating. The writing style was warm and humorous at times, although the author’s habit of describing women as attractive whenever they were introduced into the narrative was rather old-fashioned. If there is a humanitarian crisis looming and there’s a race against time to prevent an epidemic, it’s maybe not the best time to describe the female doctor’s appearance.

It is clear that a lot of effort has been invested in this book to make it as accurate as possible and it has a list of publications the author has been involved with, should you wish to follow the subject up. I would recommend Adventures of a Disease Detective to anyone who wants a different kind of medical memoir and would like to learn more about the Philippines in particular.

Independently published in 2023. This review first appeared on Reedsy Discovery.

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