Quotes by: Abraham Verghese
Verghese in 2011
||Professor of medicine, author of three best-selling books
||Madras Medical College, Madras, now Chennai
||1980 to present
||medical book, autobiography, novel
||My Own Country, The Tennis Partner, Cutting for Stone
There's something universal about illness... Whether you like it, at some level all patients are saying, 'Daddy, Mommy, help me, tell me it's going to be alright.'
I think we learn from medicine everywhere that it is, at its heart, a human endeavor, requiring good science but also a limitless curiosity and interest in your fellow human being, and that the physician-patient relationship is key; all else follows from it.
I think America is really in denial about the degree to which residents, particularly foreign medical graduates, man the county hospitals of this country, and but for their services, I'm not sure how exactly we could manage.
I love to read poetry but I haven't written anything that I'm willing to show anybody.
The bottom line: health care reform is about the patient, not about the physician.
My advice for writers is to get a good day job. It takes the pressure off writing if you have a job that pays the bills.
We have the sense that medical students come to medicine with a great capacity to understand the suffering of patients. And then by the end of the third year they completely lose that ability, partly because we teach them the specialized language of medicine.
As a young physician in the mid-'80s, caring for people who had contracted H.I.V., I lost two of my patients to suicide at a time when the virus was doing very little harm to them. I have always thought of them as having been killed by a metaphor, by the burden of secrecy and shame associated with the disease.
Certainly when I got to medical school, I had role models of the kind of physicians I wanted to be. I had an uncle who, looking back, was probably not the most-educated physician around, but he carried it off so well.
I still find the best way to understand a hospitalized patient whose care I am taking over is not by staring at the computer screen but by going to see the patient; it's only at the bedside that I can figure out what is important.
My deceased patients have taught me over the years to believe in the glass half full, to make good use of the time we have, to be generous - that was their lesson for the Uber-mind, and it was free. 'Do that,' they said, 'and then perhaps death shall have no dominion.'
Literature is a beautiful way of keeping the imagination alive, of visiting worlds you would never have time to in your day-to-day life. It keeps you abreast of a wider spectrum of human activities.
I think we can see how blessed we are in America to have access to the kind of health care we do if we are insured, and even if uninsured, how there is a safety net. Now, as to the problem of how much health care costs and how we reform health care ... it is another story altogether.
What we need in medical schools is not to teach empathy, as much as to preserve it - the process of learning huge volumes of information about disease, of learning a specialized language, can ironically make one lose sight of the patient one came to serve; empathy can be replaced by cynicism.
I joke, but only half joke, that if you show up in an American hospital missing a finger, no one will believe you until they get a CAT scan, MRI and orthopedic consult.
I was taking care of people my age who were dying. The constant feeling, hearing from them, was that life is transient and can end very quickly, so don't postpone your dreams.
Modern society has evolved to the point where we counter the old-fashioned fatalism surrounding the word 'cancer' by embracing the idea of the Uber-mind - that our will possesses nearly supernatural powers.
By visiting patients in their home, by helping them come to terms with their illness, I could heal when I could not cure.
Medicine, you see, is my first love; whether I write fiction or nonfiction, and even when it has nothing to do with medicine, it's still about medicine. After all, what is medicine but life plus? So I write about life.
I write by stealing time. The hours in the day have never felt as if they belonged to me. The greatest number has belonged to my day job as a physician and professor of medicine - eight to 12 hours, and even more in the early days.
The flip side of suicide is that it leaves a lingering question in the minds of the people who survived. It's like a cancer that's metastasized. The suicide is the cancer and the metastasis is all these people saying, Why? Why? Why?
Lets take away the incentives to do 'to' patients and instead create incentives to do 'for' patients, to be 'with' patients. We don't need to do comparative effectiveness trials to see if that works; we can just ask patients.
So I consider myself a dog person. Kind of. Had dogs when I was a kid, but my parents would never have dreamed of having them in the house.
When I use the word 'healing,' by that I mean that every disease has a physical element that we're very good at handling, but there's always a sense of the violation. 'Why me?' 'Why is my leg broken on the ski trip and not anyone else's?' And I think that medicine has done a terrible job of addressing that spiritual violation.