A Writing Life
Kaiser Permanente News Center
March 30, 2007
Some Kaiser Permanente caregivers take up the pen after hours, and find it helps create
balance in their live
"When they ask me . . . how I have for so many years continued an equal interest in medicine
and the poem, I reply that they amount for me to nearly the same thing."
—William Carlos Williams, American physician and poet
More and more Kaiser Permanente employees are finding that writing professionally, for all of
its challenges, can be a successful complement - and even antidote - to the demands of a full-
time career in medicine.
Paul Bernstein, MD, in December became the latest Kaiser clinician to join the ranks of
published authors with the publication of Courage to Heal. Bernstein's book is a fictionalized
account of the founding of Kaiser Permanente by a young and idealistic surgeon, Sidney R.
"I was inspired by the life of Dr. Garfield,'' says Bernstein, chief of head and neck surgery at
the Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center.
Paul Bernstein, MD"[I wrote about] his struggles to start Kaiser Permanente in the face of
resistance from the medical establishment and his commitment to providing affordable and
quality care to the public — to me, these efforts stand among the most important individual
accomplishments of the 20th century," says Dr. Bernstein (right). "And they still ring true in
terms of the challenges we face in medicine today."
Courage to Heal tells the dramatic story of Dr. Garfield's professional and personal journey,
including his quest to create an entirely new health care system, and his love affair with a
beautiful nurse who marries a man determined to defeat him.
All proceeds from the novel are being donated to the Sidney Garfield Memorial Fund and to
the Permanente Foundation. The memorial fund was established in 1987 to encourage
innovation and exploration of new models of care. The Permanente Foundation was created
in 2006 to support the charitable activities in which Permanente physicians are engaged.
Betty Lamb, an OB/GYN nurse for the past 17 years at Kaiser Permanente's San Rafael
Medical Center, is another of Kaiser's published authors. Working with her husband, J.J.
Lamb, a journalist and established writer of detective books, she has produced a medical
thriller, Bone Dry, and an adventure story, Heir Today. The couple takes a tag-team approach
to fiction writing: Betty - whose published name is Bette Golden Lamb - produces the first
draft; J.J. refines it to create the next iteration.
Bone DryBone Dry was published in 2003 and features a nurse as the protagonist. The book
tells the story of a greedy lab technician who holds cancer patients' bone marrow for ransom.
Bill Pronzini, author of the "Nameless Detective" series, wrote this about Bone Dry:
"Compelling characters, authentic scientific background and tense prose make for a one-
Heir Today, released in 2005, also generated positive reviews. The story revolves around the
danger and intrigue facing a couple as they pursue a $250,000 inheritance.
KP's budding authors are writing more than just novels. In fact, Jeff Dwyer, PhD., a clinical
specialist in the Cardiology department at Kaiser Permanente Vallejo (Calif.) Medical Center,
could be called a "ghost" writer of sorts. In 2005, he wrote a book titled, A Ghost Hunter's
Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area. The effort stemmed from Dwyer's lifelong interest in
apparitions and the supernatural. As a child, he sneaked into abandoned Victorian houses in
Alameda in pursuit of ghosts. And in 1990, he says he saw two ghostly figures dressed in
buckskin on horseback in a remote Nevada desert.
One of KP's most prolific authors is Kaiser Foundation Health Plan/Hospitals' Chairman and
CEO, George Halvorson, who has written or co-written three books about health care reform
and delivery in the past five years. A fourth, Health Care Reform Now!, is scheduled to be
published this August.
Perhaps one of KP's best-known and widely read writers is Khaled Hosseini, MD. Hosseini,
formerly an internist at KP in Mountain View, Calif., wrote The Kite Runner, a story about two
boys living in Afghanistan before the Soviet invasion in 1979. The book made the New York
Times' paperback best-seller list shortly after it was published in 2004. It remains a strong
seller in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Kaiser Permanente writers