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April 3, 1967

When the Scalpel Sharpens the Pen

JAMA. 1967;200(1):19-22. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120140077010

The curiosity of the public about things medical is probably greater than on any other single subject—except perhaps sex. Fortunately, a novelist willing to undertake the grueling discipline necessary to learn his trade can combine the two to his considerable benefit. And if he is lucky enough to have had a medical education and the experience of practice, with the understanding of human nature which these always generate, his chances of success are considerably increased.

When does the story-telling instinct begin? Perhaps at conception; certainly the capacity to recognize instinctively those dramatic situations which lie at the heart of all fiction, whatever the medium, seems to be the only part of the writer's skill that cannot be learned. And even when it exists, it must be sharpened.

Storytellers are always story-lovers. My own love affair with dramatic stories undoubtedly began when, while still a small boy, I discovered a stack