Category Archives: The Midnight Meal

International Praise for Carrying The Black Bag

I am immensely gratified to have received an international award for my book, Carrying The Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales. In an act of shameless but necessary self-promotion, I share the good news with you. Hope y’all will help to spread the word!


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Maryglenn McCombs (615) 297-9875

Tom Hutton, M.D.’s memoir, Carrying the Black Bag, Among Honorees, Finalists for the Eric Hoffer Book Award

LUBBOCK, Texas – Texas doctor Tom Hutton, M.D.’s memoir, Carrying the Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales has been named among the winners in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards.

A prestigious international award that honors the memory of American philosopher Eric Hoffer, The Eric Hoffer Book Award has become one of the largest and most sought-after awards for small, academic and independently-published titles. Presented annually, the Eric Hoffer Book Award was designed to highlight salient writing and celebrate the spirit of independent presses. This year’s award program yielded over 1300 book entries.

Carrying the Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales, a memoir of Hutton’s career in medicine, was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Health category. Moreover, Carrying the Black Bag was named a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Award’s Montaigne Medal, which celebrates those books deemed the most thought-provoking.

During his thirty-plus years of practicing in West Texas and Minnesota, physician and neurologist Tom Hutton discovered that a doctor’s best teachers are often his patients. From these (extra)ordinary individuals, Hutton gained a whole-hearted respect for the resourcefulness, courage, and resilience of the human spirit. Hutton’s patients—and the valuable lessons they taught—served as the inspiration for Carrying the Black Bag. Part memoir and part tribute to the patients who faced major illness with grace, grit, and dignity, Carrying the Black Bag invites readers to experience what it is like to be a doctor’s hands, eyes, and heart. Imagine the joy of witnessing a critically ill five-year-old who, against all odds, claws her way back from a coma and near certain death. Meet a lonely Texas widower with Parkinson’s disease who hosts elaborate pinochle parties for a pack of imaginary canines. Step into the surgical booties of the author when he attempts to deliver his own child amid heart-stopping obstetrical complications—during a paralyzing Minnesota blizzard. Through real-life patient narratives, Hutton shines light on ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges. Moreover, this captivating tale captures the drama of medicine—its mystery, pathos, heroism, sacrifice, and humor.

Tom Hutton, M. D., is an internationally-recognized clinical and research neurologist and educator. The past president of the Texas Neurological Society, Dr. Hutton served as professor and vice chairman of the Department of Medical and Surgical Neurology at the Texas Tech School of Medicine. He now lives on his cattle ranch near Fredericksburg, Texas. Visit Tom Hutton online at:

Published by Texas Tech University Press, Carrying the Black Bag is available in hardcover edition (6 x 9, 257 pages; photographs; ISBN: 978-0-89672-954-4) Carrying the Black Bag was also awarded the Bronze Medal in the “Best Debut Author” category of the Feathered Quill Book Awards.

For additional information on the Eric Hoffer Book Award, visit:

Members of the news media wishing to request additional information about Tom Hutton, M.D. or Carrying the Black Bag are kindly asked to contact Maryglenn McCombs by phone: (615) 297-9875 or email:

Taylor McNeill, a surgical nurse and dear niece, reading my book between cases

What Old Fashioned Neurology Offers 21st Century Medicine

Like other areas of medicine, Neurology has experienced phenomenal technological achievements during the last thirty-five years.  Our current stellar imaging and modern therapeutic modalities couldn’t have been imagined at the time of my training in the 1970s.  Back then we focused on EEG, pneumoencephalography (I shudder even recalling that archaic and painful test), skull X-rays, the “black box” of Dr. A.B. Baker, and the importance that psychological influences had for neurological symptoms.

With improved recall of information via computer searches, current knowledge is more accessible than before.  The practice of medicine has become more sophisticated, and we must never denigrate such great progress. However these wonderful technical successes also place our profession at risk of becoming overly insular.  A tendency exists for current physicians to interact less with colleagues and to spend more time with machines.

During my internship and residency on-call nights, the midnight meal  provided social lubrication that benefited the collective care of patients by physicians of different specialties.  Over the day’s leftovers, the house staff met to discuss cases, tell stories, gossip, and let down their professional guards. We would lay down our stethoscopes and put up our feet.

I don’t know if this quaint custom even still exists.  If it does not, then other means are needed to provide a human interface among physicians, so that our most personal and caring of professions never veers into a numbers crunching, overly compartmentalized group of disciplines.

The evolution of modern medicine will rely heavily on doctors, hospital administrators, and other staff working together to solve common problems. An active exchange of thoughts among all members of the health care team will be required to bring about a truly integrated health care system that reduces costs, cuts medical errors, and advances quality and safety. The neurological approach, despite appearing anachronistic, offers an example that might provide advantage.

Neurology with its reliance on medical history and careful neurological examination remains an anachronism in modern medicine.  Who else but neurologists still tote around little black bags?  Who else but a neurologist spends more time taking medical histories and performing examinations than reviewing laboratory tests?  Neurologists must not avoid the newer technological achievements.   But perhaps by the anachronistic nature of our discipline, Neurology has become a model for a bridge from the present to the more humanistic, interconnected physicians of the past. Such improved socialization of medicine represents my fondest wish for medicine.  Moreover I hope our discipline that parenthetically McDonald Critchley endearingly referred to as “The Divine Banquet of the Brain” and by which I was seduced so many years ago, leads the way toward an improved interconnected clinical effort from which patients will benefit.