Indian-American physician to receive National Humanities Medal

Jaswinder Singh Baidwan

Akhran da mureed
Staff member
Indian-American physician-author Abraham Verghese, whose work has emphasised empathy in medicine, has been selected for the prestigious 2015 National Humanities Medal, the White House has announced.

US President Barack Obama would confer the honour upon Verghese, along with 11 others, and the recipients of 2015 National Medal of Arts at ceremony on September 21.

Currently a professor of medicine at the Stanford School of Medicine, 61-year-old Verghese has authored several acclaimed books, including “My Own Country” and “Cutting for Stone”.

In a statement, the White House on Wednesday said Verghese has been given the award for reminding “us” that the patient is the centre of the medical enterprise.

“His range of proficiency embodies the diversity of the humanities, from his efforts to emphasise empathy in medicine, to his imaginative renderings of the human drama,” the White House said.

“Abraham Verghese is not only an exemplary clinician, he is an exemplary humanist,” said Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne.

“Everyday in the classroom, he teaches his students that professions such as medicine benefit from an understanding of the human condition.

“We are so proud that his breadth of scholarship has been recognised with this honour,” Tessier-Lavigne said.

Inaugurated in 1997, the National Humanities Medal honours individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the human experience, broadened citizens’ engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy, and other humanities subjects, according to the National Endowment for the Humanities website.

Up to 12 medals are awarded each year.

“I am humbled and excited by this honour,” Verghese said in a statement issued by the Stanford University. He completed his education at the Madras Medical College.

“The names of previous recipients include writers I most admire. It is a wonderful affirmation of a path that in the early years I wasn’t sure was the right path, even though it was one I felt compelled to follow,” Verghese, who is also the Linda R Meier and Joan F Lane Provostial Professor, said.

Verghese is known for his emphasis on empathy for patients in an era in which technology often overwhelms the human side of medicine, the university said in a statement.

“I felt strongly then and now that what I was writing about, and my interest in the human experience of being ill or caring for the ill, was as much a part of medicine as knowledge of the function of the pancreas, for example,” said Verghese, who is also a Vice Chair of Stanford’s Department of Medicine.