My wonderful publicist, Maryglenn McCombs, recently arranged a 10-Texas Blog Tour. This has brought about increased information and excitement for my book, Carrying The Black Bag. One blog asked me to answer a series of questions. Since I have found these to be frequently asked questions, I wanted to share this now with my blog readers (see below).
Also have enjoyed recently speaking at the Hondo Rotary Club and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in the Texas Hill Country. These were a lot of fun and met many nice folks. i continue to be extremely gratified by the overwhelmingly positive response to my book including reviews by the Manhatten Book Review, The Chicago Sun Times, and the Austin American Statesman among others. I welcome opportunities to share these stories with other organizations. Just let Trudy or me know if you would like for me to speak to your groups and we will see if we can schedule an event.
Blog Tour Questions
- What made you want to share your story and write this book?
One reviewer described Carrying The Black Bag as part memoir and part love story between a doctor and his patients. While unusual, this statement is largely true. The wonderful patients described in my book have by now passed on, making me the last person standing who can share their poignant, humorous, and courageous stories.
The sobering impact of life altering illnesses crystalizes what is most important in our lives, deepens commitment to spouses and families, increases reflection on spiritual lives, or even, in rare instances, as described in the book, leads to revealing hallucinations due to loneliness and illness.
Family caregivers are usually irrevocably changed by intense caregiving and might just discover unknown depths of resolve and determination.
Such insights allow intriguing insights into the human condition.
- What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
First, I want them to experience a good read. Without reading enjoyment few would continue turning the pages. Secondly, I hope these stories will help others deal with current or future medical problems with greater insight and confidence and be inspired by the patients described.
I also hope readers will develop greater understanding of the importance of good doctor-patient-family communication and how this benefits patient care. The reader should as well enjoy and experience “a behind the curtain peek” at the medical profession.
- What is the most important thing you have to do as an author of nonfiction vs. fiction?
Nonfiction must have authenticity as well as be engaging. Whereas fiction can be spun from whole cloth, nonfiction must strive for accuracy, develop context within our life experience, and inform to a much greater extent.
- Did you find writing about your life as a physician a difficult or therapeutic process?
Reliving the excitement of a fulfilling medical career was a wonderful experience. Admittedly dredging up the intense challenges, the anxieties of a newly minted physician, and recalling the overwhelming fatigue proved emotionally difficult but overall proved therapeutic and satisfying.
- Now that you are retired, what do you say was the most challenging part of your profession?
Doctors along with their families must sacrifice in order for the doctor to be available for patient needs. Illnesses and injuries ignore social calendars. For example, my formally dressed wife on several occasions spent her evenings sitting in a busy emergency room amid feverish people, inebriates, and the injured waiting for her sidetracked husband to finish up. Trudy fortunately was able to accept my demanding schedule. Many doctors were not so fortunate and suffered high divorce rates.
I don’t know if my children realized the effort required to be present for their events, to enjoy a regular family dinner, and make sure family vacations came about. On the other hand, I know I missed events important to them while attending my patients who had first claim on my time. This proved painful for me. Managing these medical versus personal challenges proved the most difficult part of my professional life.
- What do you say was the most rewarding part of your profession?
Without a doubt, the most rewarding aspect of my medical career was the unique relationship that develops between a doctor and patient. The doctor/patient relationship is like no other in that trust has to exist. Few other relationships involve this degree of intimacy and sharing of personal information. Open communication also becomes vital in order to provide the best of care. The trust and appreciation shown by my patients proved incredibly rewarding.
Practicing neurology also proved extremely satisfying. Neurological diagnosis requires careful history taking and examination. This teasing out of clues is paramount to making a correct diagnosis. In a way in this day of enhanced medical imaging and laboratory evaluations neurology is an anachronism. Due to the amount of medical instruments required for the examination, its practitioners may appear old fashioned as they still carry black medical bags.
- What do you think is the biggest challenge facing medical care now and in the future?
The inherent conflict between the need to combat rapidly escalating medical costs and the ongoing desire of people for individualized medical care presents the greatest challenge to medicine today. Drastic limitations on time spent with each patient driven by third party reimbursements, increased record keeping requirements, and cookbook medicine detract from patient-specific needs.
I hope the art of medicine and careful communication between doctor and patient will not be compromised in a headlong pursuit of cost saving nor will the art of medicine give way entirely to technological advancements such as in imaging and laboratory evaluation.
The sharing of electronic medical records has potential for great benefit. A less attractive aspect is the growing diminished face-to-face communication among members of the medical team. Such institutions as the “midnight meal” for interns and residents may become a thing of the past. Nevertheless newer means of exchanging and gaining further information than from chart reviews and fostering collegiality will be needed.
- Any other projects planned for the writing world of Tom Hutton MD?
At least two projects interest me. First I would like to write a sequel to Carrying The Black Bag, perhaps titled Retiring The Black Bag. With the tremendous number of baby boomers retiring each year, a continuation interests me including my own personal challenge taking off the stethoscope and becoming, what my wife refers to as a real person. Further I wish to share the unusual/incredible role an amazing Border collie named Bandit had in effecting this challenging transition. Moreover the colorful people involved in this important phase in my life would provide interesting reading and relatable events. It might prove helpful to others anticipating and hopefully planning for their own retirements.
Secondly, I am interested in writing an expanded version of the account of Adolf Hitler and his medical problems. In addition to his neurological disorder, Hitler had serious heart disease and a litany of other medical complaints and disorders. The horrendous impact that der Führer had on the twentieth century continues to fascinate and too little attention has been paid to the impact his poor health had on his decision-making.