Recently had the pleasure of going over the galleys of “Ebola”, and nearly 3/4 of the ways done with “Cures”, I’m getting to experience some of the perks of the life of an author. For some reason, people open up to authors more, and want to share more ideas (which of course, I love). I think part of it is that during the process of writing “Ebola”, I became a much better listener. I had years of experience listening to investigators discuss their research plans, but I had a particular vested interest in those discussions: I wanted to effect the outcome of their research, and was trying to sell them my collaboration as a service. I think being an author tells people that you’re interested in the human condition.
As an author, I’m finding that people from all walks of life open up to me, and really want to share all of their thoughts about a particular topic. And I’ve found that I’m getting very good at bridging political, ideological and religious barriers. There is something about the status of being an author on a scientific topic that causes most – emphasis on “most” – to afford one a tad more credibility. I emphasize “most” because the reverse is true among experts in biodefense: they want me to prove that I have sufficient knowledge before they will brook a conversation! Hopefully thus far I have not dissatisfied too many.
People from all walks of life know a lot more about some fairly complex issues than most in the biomedical field give them credit for. They are aware of the issues – and they want to share their own understanding. That’s why I think “Cures” will be very well received. There are plenty of myths, and rumors about the evils of biomedicine – but there are just as many truths that are worth learning about. Not all of the truths are pretty, but many are. So in “Cures”, I’m focusing on finding the ever-elusive silver linings in tough topics like ADHD overdiagnosis. It’s all too easy to sit on a rocking chair on my figurative front porch and complain to Gracie, or my neighbor, who sometimes comes over for iced tea, about how bad it is, and end the conversation with “Well, whaddya gonna do about it”?
The fact is, writing on these topics is empowering for me. I have found a particular niche, and a particular combination of writing style that people say they like. I mix the scientific literature with citations from the media – and quotes from experts – get all the peer-reviewed research results I can, and, using the combined powers of logic and passion for ending human pain and suffering, strive for a conversational, non-condescending tone, and somehow it comes out… interesting and informative.
People constantly ask me what my next book project will be, and right now, with “Cures”, when I describe the content, every person I have discussed it with has affirmed that they have heard that doctors don’t want cures, they want treatments, because treatments make them money. Talk about taking a bull by the horns! ADHD overdiagnosis and overtreatment, grapefruit and blood pressure, fecal microbiota transplants, mammograms, with an eye on history, and evolutionary biology, all open topics with plenty of confusion among the public given discordant results from studies. A contemplative, meditative, thorough treatment of the topics with the goal of identifying the positives… well it’s hard work, but it’s rewarding in its own right. I’m learning a lot, too, which of course makes me happy. The work will no doubt not be the last word on these complex topics, but I hope that my effort will help others understand what is known, what is not known, what is fact, and what is myth, when they hear that doctors don’t want to help patients with cures. (Hint on the bottom line: there are attributes that tend to common to successful translational research studies, so motives be damned, I get to call out the good guys AND the bad guys – and I celebrate the good ones more than dwell on the bad).
If you’re an author, feel free to share w/me your transformative experiences as the world reacted to your “author” personality as opposed to your “scholar” personality.