As someone with a passion for creative writing and a future career in medicine, I have always been interested in how others manage to intertwine these two disciplines. Oliver Sacks, author of several books including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales, is one of the most prominent physician-writers. Sacks’s writing validates my belief that these two fields are not mutually exclusive but actually complement each other quite effectively. Sacks makes storytelling science and science storytelling. His book is divided into four sections—losses, excesses, transports, and the world of the simple—each of which contains a series of clinical tales focusing on an individual’s experience with a neurological disorder.
As a competitive long-distance runner, I have often debated the validity of athletic talent. While talent seems to play a key role in sports like soccer, basketball, and tennis which require a sophisticated level of hand-eye coordination, gracefulness, and spatial perception, it seems less critical to endurance sports. I’d like to suggest that pain tolerance is in fact the most important skill of endurance athletes. I believe that this tolerance depends upon an individual’s ability to process and experience physical sensations normally classified as pain as something else. Finally, I assert that pain tolerance can be learned and may affect arenas other than athletics.