A Lecture on Bedside Medicine in a Technological Age from Dr. Abraham Verghese
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The last date listed for Dr. Abraham Verghese Lecture was Wednesday February 10, 2010 / 7:30pm.
Currently at Benaroya Hall, S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium
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Abraham Verghese was drawn to medicine through fiction. The idea that medicine, like fiction, was a “mysterious, noble, romantic and highly desirable quest” for knowledge, a way to deeply understand suffering and the human condition, came to Verghese from his reading of Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage. His instructors at the Madras Medical College in India reinforced the connection, teaching that each patient tells a story. When a person is sick she will give her doctor pieces of information about how she feels; a bit like reciting one paragraph of a novel. The doctor’s job is to understand the whole story — what happened before or around this paragraph. And so the doctor, like the writer, must listen, observe, and bring the details of a story, a life, together.
After medical school, Verghese traveled to the U.S. for a residency, spending three years in Tennessee. It was there that he witnessed the first signs of AIDS and the physical, emotional, and societal impact the disease’s spread had on his community. This led to his first book, My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story (1994), about arrival of the AIDS epidemic in rural Tennessee. A few years later, working in Texas, he met David, an intern who became the subject of his second book, __The Tennis Partner: A Story of Friendship and Loss __(1998), which is about addiction and suicide.
His inaugural novel, __Cutting for Stone __(2009), brings together storytelling, medicine, and a search for understanding. Verghese writes of two generations of doctors in Ethiopia and America, two very different settings for the practice of medicine. “In Africa,” he says, “nothing separates doctor and patient, no layers of paperwork, technology or specialists. In that setting, I wanted to put very human, fallible characters…To take it to America was to contrast this world with Western medicine, with the power and beauty and science, but also its failings.”