Star Surgeon by Alan E. Nourse
This book is available for free download:
Gutenberg text: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18492/18492.zip
Podiobooks audio: http://www.podiobooks.com/title/star-surgeon
The premise of this book is that Earth humans are the only intelligent race in the galaxy that has developed extensive medical knowledge and practice.† After inventing an FTL drive, humans encountered a galactic confederation and applied to join it.† One of the requirements for membership is having some special capability to offer others in the galaxy.† For Earth, its only specialty is medical skill.† Based on that, Earth was given provisional membership.
Within that context, the story centers on the first non-Earthling who has finished medical training on Earth and has applied to be a surgeon on one of Earth's traveling medical spaceships.† Some humans fear this is the beginning of a process that could lead to Earth lacking a specialty that Earth alone could offer.† As a result, there is controversy over accepting the alien into Earth medical service.† Although this is an important component of the plot, the build up to the alien doctor actually being on a medical starship is a greater fraction of the book than I thought was necessary.
The story shifts from the controversy over permitting the alien doctor to be on a shipís crew.† He is made a probationary doctor and the story follows the medical spaceship.† These ships tend to be crewed by three new doctors, each with a different specialty.† The alien finds himself on a ship with one human who is friendly to him, and one who is hostile to him.
These three have a few relatively minor cases before encountering a puzzling plague at a planet not previously known to have an intelligent species.† The people there are somewhat unclear in the info they provide and the medical tests the doctors make give strange results.† Eventually, a very odd explanation is found which struck me as very unlikely in general and quite implausible as explained without further details to justify certain aspects.†
The peculiar solution to the plague problem is found by the alien doctor.† The people who don't want the alien in the medical service try to use the situation to get rid of him.
Nourse is an SF author I have heard about, but never previously read.† When I found that Star Surgeon was available for free download, I got a copy.† I only later heard that this particular book was considered one of Nourse's juvenile SF novels.† I don't tend to choose to read juvenile literature, but since I already had it, I decided to give it a try.† It does not have the more blatant aspects of some juvenile SF from decades ago.† It's not the space cadet in adventures that an adult character would not tend to do.† The characters are old enough to be out of medical school.† After having an advance notice it was "juvenile" and looking back at what I read, I can say, "Yeah, I suppose the writing is designed to be appropriate for someone who isn't a college educated adult."† Yet, it didn't hit me over the head while I was reading it.
It is appropriate as a juvenile in that it doesn't have a complex vocabulary or advanced science material, nor does it have sexual content, profanity or such.† It is also a sort of coming-of-age concept, although not presented in an adolescent framework.
It's difficult to give a critique of the science plausibility of the "solution" to the plague planetís puzzle without spoiling the suspense in the book.† I'll try to sneak around that by just saying: You can't have intelligence in a brain simply by having numerous brain cells.† The cells need to have a sophisticated means of communicating with each other.† Factors comparable to this seem to be missing from the book's explanation.† And the "explanation" seems to lack a likely way for this issue to be resolved.