How many people do you know who can remove a human appendix, and then rush home and crank out a bunch of really good sestinas? How many people do you know who can write smoothly paced novellas while waiting to be called up to perform brain surgery? Not many, I would guess. The successful doctor/successful writer hybrid is one of life’s enduring mysteries. You’d think it would take a lifetime to reach eminence in just one of those professions. But that hasn’t stopped such physician/authors as Anton Chekhov, Oliver Sacks, Richard Selzer, Ethan Canin, or, for that matter, Abraham Verghese, who is visiting Santa Cruz today to give a lecture and visit students. The title of tonight’s sold-out lecture: The Art of Medicine In The Era of Homo Technologicus.
I always want to know: how on earth does anyone have time to be a writer/physician, or even have time to learn how to do both? At the risk of blogging about something with gravitas and import, and therefore interrupting and perhaps compromising my flow of ideas about cookies shaped like banana slugs, and candy bars with weird faces on the wrappers, I’m going to change gears for a moment and write about Verghese’s visit to campus today. I’m interested in the topic of his speech tonight — the importance of patient care and empathy in an age in which technological advances can create a gulf between doctors and patients, who often complain that they are being treated like diseases or diagnoses instead of actual people. But I’d also like to know more about the way he draws from sympathetic imagination in his writing (his latest book is the bestselling novel, Cutting For Stone) as well as his medical care. I’ll post the link when the story’s done.