Abraham Verghese, M.D.

NYT Bestselling Author, Cutting For Stone
Senior Associate Chair, Stanford University School of Medicine

Balancing tradition with technology as medicine enters the 21st century.

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Biography

2015 National Humanities Medalist

Dr. Abraham Verghese is a nationally bestselling author and a prominent voice in medicine with a uniquely humanistic view of the future of healthcare. He just received the 2015 National Humanities Medalist from President Obama, "for reminding us that the patient is the center of the medical enterprise." His memoirs and novels on medical themes have sold millions of copies, topped bestseller lists, and earned major movie deals, while his New York Times articles arguing for greater focus on the physical patient have made waves in the medical community. His warmth and vision as well as his world-class gifts as a storyteller make him a powerful speaker both to healthcare professionals and the patient in all of us.

Abraham sees a future for healthcare which marries technological innovation with the traditional doctor-patient relationship. He has a deep understanding of the new tools being placed in doctors' and patients' hands, but he also has a deep faith in the human hand itself as one of the most powerful tools in a doctor's kit. He grounds his vision of technological progress in a humanistic commitment to listening to the patient's story and providing what the patient most wants -- a true caregiver. This dual-pronged approach, incorporating both an appreciation of tech developments and a profound commitment to the relationship between doctor and patient, makes Abraham a leading voice in the discussion about what quality care means now and in the future.

In addition to being a deep thinker about the future of healthcare, Dr. Verghese is a phenomenally successful author with tremendous popular appeal. His most recent novel, Cutting for Stone, was a runaway hit, topping the New York Times bestseller list for over two years and earning a movie deal. Amazon named it one of its 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime.

"Part Dickens, part Grey's Anatomy...a lovely ode to the medical profession. […] The doctor in [Verghese] sees the luminous beauty 
of the physician's calling; the artist recognizes that there remain wounds no surgeon can mend."
Entertainment Weekly

His first book, My Own Country, a memoir about treating AIDS in rural Tennessee, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for 1994 and was made into a movie. His second book, The Tennis Partner, was a New York Times notable book and a national bestseller. His upcoming novel, The Maramon Convention, is highly anticipated.

Most recently, Dr. Verghese wrote the Forward to the current bestseller When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, a memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis.

Dr. Verghese is also well-known for his New York Times articles "Treat the Patient, Not the CT Scan" and "Restoring the Lost Art of the Physical Exam", which coined the term "iPatient" for the electronic records which often receive more attention than the actual patient. He has published extensively in the medical literature, and his writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Granta, The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and elsewhere.

Dr. Verghese has served on the faculty of many universities, including the University of Texas Health Sciences Center, San Antonio, where he was the founding director of the Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics. He has served on the Board of Directors of the American Board of Internal Medicine. He is a Master of the American College of Physicians, and was elected to the Association of American Physicians, as well as the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He was the 2014 recipient of the Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities.

Books

Cutting for Stone

Abraham Verghese, M.D.

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.

Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles — and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined.

Vintage; First Vintage Books Edition edition (26 Dec 2009)

The Tennis Partner

Abraham Verghese, M.D.

When Abraham Verghese, a physician whose marriage is unraveling, relocates to El Paso, Texas, he hopes to make a fresh start as a staff member at the county hospital. There he meets David Smith, a medical student recovering from drug addiction, and the two men begin a tennis ritual that allows them to shed their inhibitions and find security in the sport they love and with each other. This friendship between doctor and intern grows increasingly rich and complex, more intimate than two men usually allow. Just when it seems nothing can go wrong, the dark beast from David’s past emerges once again — and almost everything Verghese has come to trust and believe in is threatened as David spirals out of control.

Vintage; New Ed edition (6 May 1999)
Chatto & Windus; Numbered First Edition edition (20 Aug 1998)

My Own Country

A Doctor's Story

Abraham Verghese, M.D.

Nestled in the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee, the town of Johnson City had always seemed exempt from the anxieties of modern American life. But when the local hospital treated its first AIDS patient, a crisis that had once seemed an “urban problem” had arrived in the town to stay.

Working in Johnson City was Abraham Verghese, a young Indian doctor specializing in infectious diseases. Dr. Verghese became by necessity the local AIDS expert, soon besieged by a shocking number of male and female patients whose stories came to occupy his mind, and even take over his life. Verghese brought a singular perspective to Johnson City: as a doctor unique in his abilities; as an outsider who could talk to people suspicious of local practitioners; above all, as a writer of grace and compassion who saw that what was happening in this conservative community was both a medical and a spiritual emergency.

Out of his experience comes a startling but ultimately uplifting portrait of the American heartland as it confronts — and surmounts — its deepest prejudices and fears.

Phoenix; New edition edition (1 May 1995)
Simon & Schuster; First Printing edition (May 1994)

Praise

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FINALIST

“A fine mix of compassion and precision.... Verghese makes indelible narratives of his cases, and they read like wrenching short stories.” — Pico Iyer, Time

“A richly textured portrait of a small Southern town.... Immensely moving. In describing his own odyssey as a healer, Verghese displays rare candor and eloquence.” — USA Today

“Memorable.... Fascinating. We come away from My Own Country with an abiding admiration for the good and compassionate work Dr. Verghese has conducted.” — Michael Dorris, Los Angeles Times

“Remarkable.... An account of the plague years in America. Beautifully written, fascinating and tragic, by a doctor who was changed and shaped by his patients.” — Perri Klass, The New York Times Book Review

Topics

Abraham tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Health 3.0: Delivering Humanistic Care in the Era of Lean

Healthcare today is in the midst of dramatic change: big data, new technologies, large-scale health reform, and creative models of healthcare delivery are transforming the way we care for patients. The need to deliver quality and to be cost-effective presents challenges for the delivery of humanistic care. In particular, technological advances in medicine have equipped us with powerful tests and data, but often physicians face the “4000 clicks a day” phenomenon, where much of the care is focused on the screen. Verghese presents a method for preserving the personal nature of the physician-patient and the team-patient relationship in the era of lean. Increasing emphasis on the “phenome” (the obvious phenotypic manifestations of disease on the body) must balance our genomic, proteomic, metabolomic and other testing. By doing so we spare the patient risky and costly diagnostic tests or unnecessary consultations. The skilled focused physical exam, the trained touch does much to preserve the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship. Verghese emphasises the practice of direct patient engagement because of what he has termed three P’s: Plucking the low hanging fruit, Purposeful Ritual and Patient and Physician Satisfaction. Changes in health care delivery that do not address these issues can have costly consequences.

Physician Wellness in the Era of Lean

By some estimates more than 50% of primary care physicians are experiencing burnout. With numbers like that it seems unlikely that the problem is personal or individual but rather a systemic issue. As healthcare systems adapt to rapidly changing environments and economies of scale, it is important not to lose sight of the healthcare providers who remain crucial to the system alongside the sophisticated technology that's being embraced. Drawing on his experience with the nature of dysphoria and addiction as well as physician suicide described in his best-selling book The Tennis Partner, and calling on his commentaries in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times pieces on changes in healthcare, Dr. Verghese reflects on the core values of medicine and some critical elements that are necessary for physician satisfaction.

The Pen and the Stethoscope: Connections Between Literature and Medicine

Every patient comes with a story. In fact every physician begins by taking a history and that word has the root "story" within it. Even in a technological era, narrative remains important particularly to the patient. Understanding the narrative is critical to patient satisfaction. In this presentation, Abraham relates Aristotelian story structure to medicine; connects elements of story — epiphany and metaphor — to medicine; and reflects on the nature of epiphanies in medicine. He draws on his love of literature, on his experience at the Iowa writers workshop where he obtained a Masters degree, and on his lessons learned while writing three bestsellers, two nonfiction books (My Own Country, The Tennis Partner) and on novel (Cutting for Stone) — the last remained on the bestseller list for over 100 weeks .

Videos

Reviving the Culture of Bedside Care

A doctor's touch | TED

TEDMED

Feedback

A not-for-profit health care system:
Dear Abraham — We are aglow here in [city] from your visit. What a true pleasure and privilege it was to spend time with you. The events, in a word, were remarkable and the accolades endless. You have inspired, invigorated, humbled, and energized so many (let’s see, 850 last night and 400 this morning) through your words and through your presence.

A public health association:
It was excellent. He was exactly what we had hoped for!

An international non-profit association for transfusion medicine:
What a WONDERFUL presentation with Dr. Verghese this morning. Everything went beautifully and his presentation was incredibly well received. What a warm and gracious man. On behalf of [ … ], we certainly enjoyed the opportunity to have him as our keynote speaker and look forward to his returning in the future.

Organization of family physicians:
"FABULOUS"

A nonprofit medical society:
First of all, Dr V is a wonderful person! We so enjoyed meeting him! Everyone felt like we were touching the sleeve of a master — both in terms of a physician and as a best-selling author!! Dr V touched so many attendees with his remarks.

A healthcare system:
Everything was fantastic! Dr. Verghese was a huge hit with our conference and my staff honestly said he was one of the nicest speakers.

A regional hospital association in the United States:
He did an excellent job and was very easy to work with. … I highly recommend. His message is very powerful.