In this absorbing debut, award-winning New York Times staff writer Belluck chronicles the daily life of a maverick physician and the Nantucket community he serves.
In addition to his job as head of medicine at Nantucket Cottage Hospital, Dr. Timothy Lepore, a general surgeon, also runs a family practice and serves as the physician for the high-school football team—those are only his official jobs. Not only is his role “central to the health and life of a community in ways that rarely occur these days,” writes the author, but it is also exemplary of the art of healing. “His unconventional story shows…that what really matters is the time, effort, conviction, and care that a doctor provides.” Lepore is a larger-than-life figure on Nantucket, and his quirks are the stuff of legend—e.g., he carves scalpels from obsidian using stone-age techniques, and he hunts with a pet hawk. Also legendary are his diagnostic skills and dedication to his patients. Over the 30 years that he has practiced medicine on the island, Lepore has dealt with medical emergencies at times when weather conditions prevented the transfer of a patient to a specialist on the mainland. He has treated celebrities on summer vacation, including members of the Kennedy family, but the year-rounders, many of whom work in low-wage jobs in the tourist industry, form the core of his practice. Widely traveled summer tourists may suffer exotic diseases that challenge his expertise, but depression, alcohol abuse and teen suicide are endemic on the island. Under Lepore's leadership, Nantucket’s hospital has played a crucial role in maintaining the community's health, but it is becoming less sustainable. “The cost of providing free care to poor and uninsured patients ha[s] grown by 60 percent,” writes Belluck. Notes the hospital’s CEO, “We kept up with the medical care, but not with the business of medical care.”
An intriguing biography of a unique—and on Nantucket, irreplaceable—doctor.