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Extended Audio Sample County: Life, Death, and Politics at Chicago’s Public Hospital, by David A. Ansell Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (213 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: David A. Ansell Narrator: Bronson Pinchot Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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The amazing tale of “County” is the story of one of America’s oldest and most unusual urban hospitals. From its inception as a “poor house” dispensing free medical care to indigents, Chicago’s Cook County Hospital has been both a renowned teaching hospital and the health-care provider of last resort for the city’s uninsured. County covers more than thirty years of its history, from the late 1970s, when the author began his internship, to the “final rounds,” when the enormous, iconic Victorian hospital building was replaced and hundreds of former trainees gathered to bid it an emotional farewell.

Ansell writes of the hundreds of doctors who went through the rigorous training process with him, sharing his vision of saving the world and of resurrecting a hospital on the verge of closing. County is about people, from Ansell’s mentors, including the legendary social justice activist Quentin Young, to the multitude of patients he and County’s medical staff labored to diagnose and heal. It is a story about politics, from contentious union strikes to battles against “patient dumping,” and about public health, depicting the AIDS crisis and the opening of County’s HIV/AIDS clinic, the first in the city.

Finally, it is about a young man’s medical education in urban America, a coming-of-age story set against a backdrop of race, segregation, and poverty.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “When it comes to the stories of his patients, many of whom he cared for over decades, from clinic to hospital to funeral, Dr. Ansell soars…We cannot have too many of these stories in circulation, to bear witness, to inform and to inspire.”

    New York Times

  • “Heartbreaking and important…County is written with a kind of lilting rage. Not the dark, destructive kind of rage that hurls rocks and obscenities at anything in its path but an uplifting and creative rage. A rage that says, ‘We can do better than this.’ A rage that steadily pushes its way toward hope…County is a landmark book, brave and angry and indispensable.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • “With the nation’s focus on a national health-care policy providing quality medical services to citizens regardless of race, ethnicity, and income level, Ansell’s exposé will shock and motivate readers to take a stand on the issue.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Nothing fazes narrator Bronson Pinchot…his delivery is spot-on…By the end, the listener is pulling for Ansell, with Pinchot’s voice guiding the way.”


  • “Ansell…weaves strands of memoir and policy analysis into a heartfelt account of the hospital’s challenges, failures, and successes over three decades, from the civil rights movement to the AIDS crisis, in the process educating and moving the reader to both anger and compassion. His gift for describing the connections between social forces and medical care, coupled with the vivid patient stories interspersed with trenchant critiques of the politics of health care, makes this work stand out. Ansell skillfully humanizes questions of health-care policy by describing real-life scenarios. Those who enjoyed such books as Richard Selzer’s Letters to a Young Doctor will find this book an education for both the mind and the heart.”

    Library Journal

  • “Ansell, a leading physician, ably describes what it was like to work at the nation’s oldest and largest public hospital…Ultimately, Ansell uses his memoir-like account of life at Cook County Hospital to argue for health-care reform so that all Americans can get equal care.”


Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Ann | 2/11/2014

    " A memoir about a young doctor who trained at Cook County hospital in Chicago after King said "Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhumane." The author wrote about "patient dumping," the practice of sending the uninsured (even while in labor, even while dying) to Cook County straight from the ER. This practice is now outlawed, but _County_ is a great argument for single-payer health care. (Obama is featured as he advocated for public hospitals during his time in Chicago.) The author, who is white, also discusses systemic racism and access to health care and violence and stress and how this affects health. A fast read about a place that is worth knowing about. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Bree | 1/31/2014

    " Read a great review on NPR. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Jeremy | 1/26/2014

    " Although the history of Cook County Hospital in itself was fascinating, Dr. Anselss' style and pacing could put a meth head to sleep. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Stephanie | 1/26/2014

    " An interesting memoir. I was a little disappointed, because the book's title presented it as a study of the hospital and its workings. I expected something a bit more like "Hospital", which I read earlier this month. Instead I learned a little bit about Cook County Hospital and a lot about Dr. David Ansell's life and decisions. This was the white doctor and hospital administrator speaking on behalf of his mostly black and indigent patients. Ansell has an admirable desire to change the system and a drive to heal the shocking health disparities in Chicago. However, I think part of the problem is that we don't hear enough from the patients themselves. They are left without a voice in this book, in our medical system, and in the country at large. I look forward to hearing from them. I think Dr. Ansell would agree. "

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About the Author
Author David A. Ansell

David A. Ansell, MD, MPH, is a Chicago-based physician and health activist. He has been an internal medicine physician since training at Cook County Hospital in the late 1970s where he spent seventeen years holding a number of positions including chief of general medicine / primary care. After leaving County, he spent ten years as chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital located in one of the poorest communities in Chicago. Now chief medical officer at Rush University Medical Center, he also sees patients and teaches. Since coming to Chicago to train at Cook County Hospital, he has dedicated his career to fighting health inequity by building programs to address and eliminate these disparities. His work with others has led to the end of “patient dumping” in the United States, one of the first cancer screening programs in America aimed at addressing the Black:White breast cancer mortality disparity, the creation of the most prominent health disparity research and intervention center in Chicago, and the creation of the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Taskforce, a not-for-profit dedicated to the elimination of breast cancer mortality disparity. In his spare time he reads, gardens, and exercises. He volunteers as a doctor at a Chicago free clinic and has participated in ongoing medical missions to the Dominican Republic and Haiti. He is married to a doctor and has two children.