One part personal memoir, another part examination of the modern health care system and its vagaries, and an instructive motivational text as well, Meghan Fitzgerald’s Ascending Davos covers a remarkable amount of territory despite running under two hundred pages. Her current position as an Associate Professor of Strategy and Health Policy at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, FitzGerald is more qualified than most to explore the complex issues regarding health care affecting every American, particularly those of limited economic means, and she brings the full breadth of those experiences to bear on this text. She backs up her examination of the issues with a variety of irrefutable sources; you cannot read this book believing for even a second she would listen to questionable voices.

Her writing makes these issues understandable to any reader with minimal effort and that stands as one of its exemplary achievements. The prose, however, takes flight as well when she opens up her personal life for readers. Ascending Davos chronicles her steady rise from a front line nurse working in dialysis centers and on Indian reservations, among other places, but it likewise reveals the woman behind that rise with unvarnished honesty. She is unafraid to share with readers each component of that journey and sharing both her strength and vulnerability as well adds layers to this work that will resonate with all but the most jaded of readers.

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It is a testament to her skill that she brings the three threads of the book together with such effortless aplomb. Writing a book about the health care system is difficult enough, but to cast that examination against the landscape of her own story and make it work for readers transforms this book into an often gripping read as FitzGerald claws her way past every obstacle and fans the fires of her desire to succeed. We see her at her uncertain and low moments as well; no portrait of her path would be complete without this.

Her look at what she believes it takes to succeed, the qualities that make an excellent leader, and other issues are another striking and important part of this book. Her observations are never easy, sentimental, or trite. Instead, they are incisive and insightful glimpses into what experience has taught her during that rise. The architecture of Ascending Davos helps makes this possible; FitzGerald puts together the book in five sections that are tightly composed and allow her ample space to connect the aforementioned three threads together in a concise fashion.

Ascending Davis is a must read for anyone concerned about health care issues in modern America, but it’s also essential for anyone who wants to read about what makes forceful leaders capable of shaping the modern world in a way that might benefit the many rather than only the  few. Even if it is a brief and comprehensible reading experience, you shouldn’t breeze through it. Savor it instead and you can return to it again and again to draw something from its deep well of riches.

Michael Rand

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