A Doctor's StoryGAMBIER, Ohio (September 8, 2004) When a 32-year-old gay man suddenly died in Johnson City, Tennessee, in 1985, the local medics soon realized they had seen the town's first case of AIDS. Some made tasteless jokes. Others suggested they bury his respirator. They were not ill-intentioned, Abraham Verghese writes in My Own Country: A Doctor's Story; it was simply that AIDS and homosexuality were something that happened somewhere else.
Verghese, a doctor in Johnson City at the time, has shared his gripping experiences with national audiences since 1994, the year My Own Country was published. In September, he will share his story in two talks at Kenyon.
My Own Country, a memoir about treating AIDS patients in rural Tennessee, uses the lens of Verghese's own experience as an immigrant searching for a sense of place. He examined the lives of gay men who left their small towns for very different lives in the city but who were now returning home to die. Time magazine named My Own Country one of the five best books of 1994.
Verghese's second book, The Tennis Partner: A Story of Friendship and Loss, deals with the death of his best friend and tennis partner, a young intern struggling with drug addiction. The book was published in 1998 and became a national best seller.
On Monday, September 13, Verghese will present a lecture entitled "The Search for Meaning in a Medical Life" at 7:30 p.m. in Higley Auditorium. On Tuesday, September 14, he will offer a presentation entitled "Doctors and Writing: What the Pen Teaches the Stethoscope," at 11:10 a.m. in Peirce Hall Lounge.
Born in Ethiopia to parents who immigrated from India, Verghese received his medical training in India and the United States, becoming an expert in infectious diseases. He also earned an M.F.A. degree at the Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. Verghese is director of the Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics in the School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.