Articles Archive

The Atlantic
A series of blogs from 2010 for Atlantic.com

British Medical Journal
British Medical Journal: In Praise of the Physical Exam – December 16, 2009
If an alien anthropologist were to visit a modern teaching hospital, “it” might conclude that, judging by where doctors spend most of their time, the business of an internal medicine service takes place around computer terminals.

Daily Beast
Daily Beast: Health Care’s Next Crisis – Mar 24, 2009
Digitizing medical records may be a cornerstone of the Obama health-care plan but Abraham Verghese argues it misses a far greater problem: the shortage of primary-care physicians. President Obama?s proposal to solve the nation?s health-care woes includes a plan…

Daily Beast: Portrait of the Writer – January 14, 2009
I like to think that every novel I read makes me a better physician, a better diagnostician?that?s my excuse to keep hanging out in bookstores. The truth is of course that I love reading novels for their own sakes. I want the escape they offer. But…

Health Affairs
Health Affairs: Narrative Matters – A Touch of Sense – July 2009
Abraham Verghese is one of select group of writers invited to contribute to Health Affairs’ special anniversary edition of Narrative Matters.

Journal of Graduate Medical Education
The Journal of Graduate Medical Education: Beyond Measure - March, 2010
I recently visited a retired physician who practiced in Roma, Texas, population 10,000. His family hs lived and ranched in Roma for six generations, well before the border was moved and Roma became part of the United States.

Journal of General Internal Medicine: Caring for Ivan Ilyich, by Blake Charlton and Abraham Verghese – December 17, 2009
For over a century, Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych has been one of the most influential examinations of how we come to terms with our own mortality. Of the many who care for Ivan Ilych, only the uneducated peasant, Gerasim, is able to help him find meaning and resolution before death.

London Observer
The London Observer: Once Upon a Life – April 11, 2010
He was a young medical student in Ethiopia when Haile Selassie was toppled, in a coup that plunged the country into two decades of bloodshed. Abraham Verghese talks about his life in Ethiopia.

New England Journal of Medicine
New England Journal of Medicine: Culture Shock – December 25, 2008
On my first day as an attending physician in a new hospital, I found my house staff and students in the team room, a snug bunker filled with glowing monitors. Instead of sitting down to hear about the patients, I suggested we head out to see them…

NEJM: The Calling – May 5, 2005
Dr. Verghese is a professor of medicine and director of the Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics, University of Texas Health Sciences Center, San Antonio. I grew up in Africa, the younger of two sons of Indian parents who taught college physics. Around…

New Yorker
New Yorker, Lilacs – October 1991
Bobby sits up on the side of the bed. He feels weak, spinny- headed, and hollow. In a little while he tugs at the bedspread and wraps it around himself. Using the chest of drawers and the television for handholds, he stumbles to the air-conditioning…

New York Times
New York Times: October 9, 2012
The Doctor’s Bag for the New Millennium
When I was a medical student in Madras, India, in the late 1970s, my uncle, a retired physician, still made occasional house calls. In his early years he delivered babies in dimly lighted huts, often resorting to high forceps on the head – something that is rarely done now. His compounder – the man who would compound his prescription of mistura carminativa and dispense it in corked glass bottle – carried my undle’s medical bag. It was almost like a trunk – a mobile office.

New York Times: February 26, 2011
Treat the Patient, Not the CT Scan
The other day as I walked through a wing of my hospital, it occurred to me that Watson, IBM’s supercomputer, would be more at home here than he was on ‘Jeopardy!’ Perhaps it’s good, I thought, that his next challenge…

New York Times: October 1, 2010
Alien Nation
Abraham Verghese reviews “Salvation City’ by Sigrid Nu
There have been as many plagues as wars in history,” notes the central character in Albert Camus‘ novel, The Plague, “yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.” The surprise is in the epidemic’s egalitarian choice of victims…

New York Times: Not a Day Over Infinity – July 30, 2010
In Pulitzer-prize winner Jonathan Weiner’s new book, “Long for ths World,” the author uses English scientist and gerontologist Aubrey de Grey to explore life, old age and immortality. As a journey, Abraham Verghese’s review says “Long for ths World is a great trip.”

New York Times: AIDS at 25 – June 2006
A quarter-century ago this week, when the Centers for Disease Control first reported the affliction we now know as AIDS, I was a 25-year-old medical resident. While I didn’t even notice the report at the time, the milestones of my life and medical career and of…

New York Times: Close Encounter – Sept 2005
With the first busloads of Katrina refugees about to arrive in San Antonio, the call went out for physician volunteers, and I signed up for the 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. shift. On the way, riding down dark, deserted streets, I thought of driving in for night shifts…

New York Times: Healing Paradox – Nov 2003
As a practicing physician, I confess that I learn about the latest medical breakthroughs while reading my morning paper. When my office mail eventually brings me the original study, my pleasure in the journal’s pristine cover and untouched pages has been diminished…

New York Times: My Hospital – Nov 1996
EL PASO — Every evening as I take the freeway home after a day of seeing patients and teaching medical students at El Paso’s sole county hospital, I whiz by ”Pill Hill,” the area around Sierra Medical Center, where my colleagues in private practice work…

New York Times Magazine
New York Times: May 18, 2012
Going on Faith
Abraham Verghese recently went back to India to a place where he had enjoyed many happy visits with his grandparents during his youth.
The morning I arrived in Trivandrum, the capital of the south Indian state of Kerala, I met my friend Vinita, a HIndu, who promoised to accompany me on a visit to the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple, a [lace that is generally off limits to nonbelievers…

Newsweek
Newsweek: March 6, 2011
A smart new book says social cures can solve the world’s problems
We are such creatures of habit that often nothing will sway us from a bad or even a self-destructive one. Or, as Tina Rosenberg says in her new book, Join the Club, “No amount of information can budge us when we refuse to be budged…

NPR
NPR, All Things Considered: December 7, 2010
Ship of the Line: Sailing to Fantasy and Back
When I was 10 years old, I went off to sea in a British frigate to battle Napoleon’s navy and thwart his ambitions in Europe. I made this perilous journey courtesy of C.S. Forester and his wonderful nvel, Ship of the Line. It was in those pages that I first met Captain Horatio Hornblower… 
Click here to listen.

Outlook India
Outlook India: My Witness Wakes Up – October 2008
If you subscribe to the lasagna schema of brain anatomy, where each stratum of the yellow matter holds the archive for one particular period in your life, then my 13th year occupies a thick layer. Every sight and sound and taste of 1968 is locked in there…

San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle: Reward Doctors for Spending Time with Patients – August 10, 2010
While driving to work the other day, I heard a radio guest speculating that there would soon be a lucrative practice opportunity for physicians catering to patients seeking medical maripuana.

San Francisco Chronicle: Why Isn?t Obama White – October 2008
In 1991, I visited El Paso, Texas, and while in the airport baggage claim, I disappeared. My bags were there, but I wasn’t. It was broad daylight, and it was that season in west Texas where even at noon you’re squinting into the sun. By then, I had lived…

Texas Monthly
Texas Monthly: None a Day – May 2007
MY MOST RATIONAL FRIENDS AND PATIENTS, the kind of people who would have wanted irrefutable evidence of WMDs before we went into Iraq, do not require such proof when it comes to taking kava, comfrey, Xango juice, or blue cohosh. Walking down the supplements…

Texas Monthly: Bedside Manners – February 2007
When it was time to hang pictures in our new house in San Antonio, my wife asked me to buy a stud finder. As a husband I demurred; as an internist I flat out refused. We internists make it our business to divine the stutters and stumbles of lungs, hearts…

Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal: When Stories Trump Facts – September 7, 2009
Every time I see a new patient, I take a history. And the more years I spend in medicine, the more I make of the patient’s story.

Wall Street Journal: Mending the Hospital Safety Net – August 7, 2009
At a time when many public hospitals around the country are in finacial peril, R.E. Thomason Hospital in El Paso, Texas, has pulled off a miracle.

Wall Street Journal: Who Speaks for Medicine? – July 24, 2009
At a moment when everyone is joining the debate over health-care reform, who speaks for medicine?

Wall Street Journal: The Myth of Prevention – June 20, 2009
When President Truman had his shot at universal health care in 1949, the American Medical Association unfortunately made use of Sir Luke Fildes’ famous painting, ‘The Doctor,’ in a negative campaign. ‘The Doctor’ happens to be my favorite painting, mostly…

Wall St. Journal: History with the Rope – January 2006
I have now watched both the official and the infamous unofficial cellphone video of Saddam’s Hussein’s execution. Both were on the Web soon after the event. I had the choice of watching them or not. I watched, with the same horrid fascination that I felt…

Wall St. Journal: On Death and Dying – August 2004
In the early years of the AIDS epidemic, when effective drug treatment was just a dream, many of us in the field of infectious diseases found that our work revolved to a large degree around the care of the dying. It was not something we had anticipated. In…

Wall St. Journal: The Way we Love Now – Sept 2003
Ever since its launch in 1998, Viagra has been a dream drug for Pfizer. In just the last year the company saw $1.7 billion in sales. But Pfizer will soon have competition from two new drugs, Levitra and Cialis, in a market it once had all to itself. Levitra is…