I'm a great believer in geography being destiny.
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.
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.
Rituals, anthropologists will tell us, are about transformation. The rituals we use for marriage, baptism or inaugurating a president are as elaborate as they are because we associate the ritual with a major life passage, the crossing of a critical threshold, or in other words, with transformation.
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.
There is that lovely feeling of one reader telling another, 'You must read this.' I've always wanted to write a book like that, with the sense that you are contributing to the discourse in middle America, a discourse that begins at a book club in a living room, but then spreads. That is meaningful to me.
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.
My writing flows out of my doctorhood. They are not separate things. They are one. I think the foremost connection between being a doctor and being a writer is the great privilege of having an intimate view of one's fellow humans, the privilege of being there and helping other people at their most vulnerable moments.