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A new twist on a venerable literary tradition

December 2008

Published in the December 2008 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

IT’S A TRAIL THAT’S BEEN BLAZED by several physicians before him: Anton Chekhov, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and William Carlos Williams, to name a few. But Ruben J. Nazario, MD, a pediatric hospitalist at Kentucky Children’s Hospital in Lexington, brings a bilingual twist to the genre of physicians who write fiction.

Dr. Nazario’s first collection of short stories, “La soberbia venganza del verbo” (“The Arrogant Vengeance of the Verb”), was published in Puerto Rico in 2005. His first novel will be printed next year, and a publisher recently signed on for his second short story collection.

While he occasionally writes poems in English, Dr. Nazario writes all of his fiction in Spanish. He says his novel and stories touch on “the problem of identity and nostalgia, of being in a place that is not your own.” While he claims that some of that tension stems from the details of his life “he moved to the U.S. at age 20 after being born and raised in Puerto Rico “much of it also comes from “being a writer in a scientific world.”

“In fiction,” he explains, “I’m trying to look at my place in the world from both perspectives.”

Dr. Nazario doesn’t maintain a strict writing schedule, but instead writes in spurts. And he doesn’t write stories from beginning to end, but jumps around in his narratives, stitching them together “like putting a puzzle together.”

He also finds some interesting similarities between practicing medicine and writing fiction. “When you’re talking to patients, they’re giving you a narrative, and you have to edit that story to come up with a diagnosis.” Writers are also keen observers, he points out, a trait he finds essential in medicine.

“You walk into a patient’s room,” says Dr. Nazario, “and in five seconds you have part of the picture of what’s going on.”