Honorary Degree Citation
College of the Holy Cross
May 27, 2022
Acclaimed writer and physician. Exemplary clinician and humanist. Unwavering advocate for patient-focused medicine and the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship.
Dr. Abraham Verghese, you have taught generations of students that professions such as medicine benefit from an understanding of the human condition. You have earned an international reputation for your focus on empathy for patients and the value of bedside skills, in an era in which sophisticated technology often overwhelms the human side of medicine.
You began your medical training in your native Ethiopia, but when civil unrest interrupted your studies, you moved to the United States with your family. You worked in the States as an orderly for a year before completing your medical studies at Madras Medical College in India. You accepted a residency at East Tennessee State University College of Medicine and completed your Fellowship in Infectious Disease at Boston University School of Medicine.
You later earned a Master of Fine Arts degree at the renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop, becoming a rare physician endowed with the skills to become a best-selling author.
Your early years as an orderly, and as a physician caring for patients with AIDS at the dawn of that epidemic, taught you about suffering and informed your approach to medicine and writing. Your first book, My Own Country, a memoir about AIDS in rural Tennessee, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and made into a movie. Your second book, The Tennis Partner, was a New York TimesNotable Book and national bestseller.
Your first novel, Cutting for Stone, was published in 2009 to international acclaim and spent a year on the New York Times Best Seller list. You have published extensively in medical literature, and your writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and elsewhere.
You currently serve as the Linda R. Meier and Joan F. Lane Provostial Professor and Vice Chair for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at Stanford University, where you were instrumental in developing the “Stanford 25” initiative, designed to showcase and teach 25 fundamental physical exam skills and their diagnostic benefits to interns. You also founded and currently direct the Stanford interdisciplinary center Presence, which champions the human experience in medicine.
You are an elected member of the prestigious National Academy of Medicine, and in 2016, received the National Humanities Medal.
That all may know of our great esteem for you and our strong support for your distinguished career as an author and physician, your advocacy for humanistic care, and your courageous leadership in educating the skilled and compassionate medical professionals who will follow your path, the College of the Holy Cross confers upon you this day the degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.