Bestselling author to discuss revolutionary doctors from Elsie Inglis to Che Guevara

A New York Times bestselling author will discuss Che Guevara and the role of doctors in revolution at The Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh next week.

Edinburgh born suffragette and doctor Elsie Maud Inglis, ran a field hospital at Royaumont Abbey in France during the First World War.

Professor Abraham Verghese, who topped the New York Times bestseller list with his novel Cutting for Stone, will discuss The Physician as Revolutionary.

The lecture, taking place on Wednesday, will profile doctors including Che Guevara, Elsie Inglis and Frantz Fanon whose revolutionary actions were an extension of their profession.

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Che Guevara qualified as a doctor in 1953, specialising in dermatology.

He moved to Mexico City to begin his residency, which he soon left to support his political convictions and he eventually became the top commander in Fidel Castro’s revolutionary army.

Professor Verghese will discuss the motivations of Guevara and others, and the idea that their involvement in revolutions was an ethical consequence of their commitment to the wellbeing of patients and society. But by taking part in revolution, these doctors were often at odds with the medical establishment, their profession, and even the state.

These conflicts will be discussed during the lecture. Professor Verghese has himself lived through a military coup.

He was born in Ethiopia, where his education was interrupted during civil unrest as the emperor was deposed by a Marxist military government. He later moved to America with his family, where later became professor for the theory and practice of medicine at Stanford University Medical School and senior associate chair of the department of internal medicine.

His first book, My Own Country, a memoir about treating Aids in rural Tennessee, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for 1994 and was made into a movie.

In 2015, President Barack Obama honoured Professor Verghese with the National Humanities Medal. His memoirs and novels on medical themes have sold millions of copies, been translated into many languages and topped bestseller lists.

Commenting ahead of the event, Professor Derek Bell, president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said: “We are honoured to have our distinguished Fellow Professor Verghese along to the college, to hear him speak about the fascinating role of doctors in revolutions - be they medical, societal or political.

“Professor Verghese himself has lived a fascinating life, having lived in Ethiopia during the time of a Marxist military coup. His warmth and vision, and his gifts as a storyteller make him a powerful speaker for healthcare professionals and non-medical audiences alike. Come along to hear him speak about doctors as diverse as Che Guevara, Elsie Inglis and Frantz Fanon who found themselves at odds with their profession or the state, what their motivations were, and what we can all learn from their actions.”