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Rhythms: Dr. Fran Kaufman’s First Foray into Fiction

Published: 3/29/16
By Kelly Close

By Amy Liang, Kelly Close, and Nicole Kofman

Renowned pediatric endocrinologist offers a lens into what it means to be a caregiver.

Dr. Francine Kaufman takes seriously the “care” in health care, and she keeps finding new ways to deliver her message.

As one of America’s leading pediatric endocrinologists, she wrote the groundbreaking book Diabesity: The Obesity-Diabetes Epidemic That Threatens America – And What We Must Do To Stop It (2005). She spearheaded a documentary about the plight of children living with diabetes around the world (2007), and has published more than 300 articles in medical journals, all while giving countless speeches and presentations around the world. She has also started a blog on her new role as a grandparent (check out its first installment: “Grammahood: What has Changed?”). But don’t worry; Dr. Kaufman has not left the medical field, as she is Medtronic’s Chief Medical Officer, where she is working on “closing the loop.”

Now, she is taking her sharp medical eye – and communication skills – to a new forum: fiction. What inspired her to begin writing? “Writing has been one of my escapes,” she told us in an interview, “and I challenged myself to write fiction. It was the hardest thing I ever did.” In Rhythms, Dr. Kaufman has crafted a suspenseful, moving tale about the challenges that physicians face regularly while also exploring the difficulties confronted by the “sandwich generation.”

Rhythms begins with Dr. Rebecca Brodie waking up to find her mother in a deteriorating condition with an irregularly high pulse and blood pressure and arrhythmia. Her irregular heart beat mirrors the tale’s quick pace and its toggling back and forth through time, between Rebecca as a child to an adult. Rebecca’s mysterious sister, Sharon, and her aloof mother, Olivia, are both portrayed as beautiful, fragile, and distant. Rebecca wants nothing more than to win the love and affection of them both, but each of them grows increasingly distant for reasons that are only later revealed.

Meanwhile, the complexities of Rebecca’s life emerge as a physician while she cares for her mother. Humble yet ambitious, Rebecca takes us on her journey as she is nominated for the American Society of Medicine but then is accused of fabricating results in her research, leading to a stressful defense of her work to leaders in the field. She faces these challenges while confronting the regular abuse, suffering, and trauma her patients and family members face.

Rhythms is a story of medicine and of family, revolving around the secrets and complications that we all encounter. It is a story of finding acceptance. Rebecca strives to be recognized in the medical world just as she strived to be recognized by her beloved sister and mother.

We are lucky at The diaTribe Foundation to have had a decade-plus long relationship with Dr. Kaufman, who has advised us on so many fronts related to patients and doctors and the entire healthcare landscape. Going back to diaTribe’s 2007 interview with Dr. Kaufman gives us great perspective, showing us how she cares for her patients, particularly those who are at the most risk. We see this in Rhythms as well with Dr. Kaufman’s protagonist, Dr. Brodie – in fact, some may wonder to what extent Dr. Brodie “is” Dr. Kaufman as they read the story. Not at all, Dr. Kaufman told us in a recent conversation. “What inspired me to write Rhythms was the opportunity to explore secrets. I have been fascinated by secrets, we all have them, our patients have them, and our job as health care providers is to determine what isn’t said.

In response to our question asking what she hopes readers will take away from Rhythms, she shared: “First, I hope they will enjoy reading Rhythms, feel what it is like to care for an aging parent, experience some aspects of what is it like to be a physician, and appreciate that life is filled with amazing vicissitudes. Most importantly, I hope it motivates them to explore their own secrets.”

Rhythms is a gripping story about the ups and downs that beat through our lives. Interested to learn more? The book is now available in paperback or in electronic versions.

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About the authors

Kelly L. Close is the founder and Chair of the Board of The diaTribe Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of people living with diabetes and prediabetes, and... Read the full bio »