Ricardo Nuila’s The People’s Hospital (Scribner, March 28) follows six underprivileged patients as they confront severe health issues and inadequate coverage, illuminating the inequities of American health care and the possibility of a more just, patient-centered future. The book appears on our list of the Best Nonfiction of 2023. Nuila answered questions by email; the exchange has been edited for length and clarity.
What drew you to these particular patient stories?
My connection to each of these patients, first and foremost. I see connecting as part of my job, as a way to ensure the clearest communication possible. These patients endured medical odysseys, but they were also able to articulate the twists and turns that are unfathomable for those of us fortunate enough not to have major medical problems. They were also generous and brave enough to share their stories. I used no pseudonyms because these people wanted their stories available to the public to help others. The science behind each of their illnesses intrigued me, but it all started with their personalities and demeanors in very dramatic circumstances.
Was there a specific personal experience that inspired you to write this book?
A set of experiences over time created a sense that, yes, I’d have to write about this wonderful hospital and why I love it so much. But the catalyst had to be the experience with Geronimo, one of the book’s subjects. I recall the emotion, suspense, and sense that someone’s life might truly be in our hands if only we poked the powers that be enough. As the roller coaster to get him coverage ensued, I kept thinking to myself: People ought to know this.
Were you able to do live events for the book this year? If so, any notable moments?
I really enjoyed my time at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and the San Antonio Book Festival, where I met and talked with some incredible readers, librarians, and writers. For my first event ever, the bookstore owner organized a very informed, very curious, vocal crowd in a small Texas town, which seemed like a dream opening.
What book (or books) published in 2023 were among your favorites?
The Guest Lecture,by Martin Riker,came into my hands at the perfect time, right after the publication of my book. It’s about an academic who stays up all night thinking about a lecture she must give in the morning—not on the nose at all, ha ha! This book seems to have accomplished the impossible: It made me laugh and care deeply about its characters while teaching me about economic theory.
William Rumelhart is an editorial intern.