Abraham Verghese, a Stanford University professor of medicine and author of the novel "Cutting for Stone," has been selected to receive the $250,000 Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities, the university announced Thursday.
Established by Teresa Heinz in 1993 in honor of her late husband, U.S. Senator John Heinz, the Heinz Awards are given to individuals who have made significant contributions to several areas near and dear to the senator. There are five award categories: the environment, the human condition, public policy and technology, the economy and employment.
"Dr. Verghese's widely acclaimed writings touch the heart and inform the soul, giving people of all walks of life a true understanding of what it is to heal the whole person not just physically, but emotionally," Teresa said in a press release announcing the annual awards.
Verghese currently serves as vice chair for the theory and practice of medicine in the Department of Medicine and is a Linda R. Meier and Joan F. Lane Provostial professor. His first novel, "Cutting for Stone," tells the story of conjoined twin brothers whose mother, an Indian nun, dies in childbirth and father, a successful surgeon at the hospital they're born in, abandons them. The book, set in India, came out in 2010 and was on The New York Times bestseller list for more than two years. Verghese, a native of India who grew up in Ethiopia, has also written two memoirs, "My Own Country: A Doctor's Story," and "The Tennis Partner: A Story of Friendship and Loss." "My Own Country," about the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and his experience in rural Tennessee, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
He has also been published extensively in medical literature and his writing has appeared in The New Yorker and The Atlantic, among other magazines.
"Writing and medicine are not separate," Verghese told the Weekly in a 2010 interview. "My writing emanates from this stance that I take, looking at the world, and the stance is purely from being a physician it's one of observing, cataloguing, being in wonder and awe of what I see. Writing comes directly out of that impulse.
"Training as a physician, at least in internal medicine, you're always looking at the body as text, you're always looking at what people say as a story and you're trying to match it to your repertoire of stories."
The 19th annual awards will be presented April 3 during a private ceremony at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Penn.