Special to the Register
The minute you read the title, you know immediately that Dr. Stuart Tobin’s new book is not your run-of-the-mill memoir.
“Rash Decisions and Growth Experiences from the Best Little Warthouse in Kentucky” is filled with true stories from Tobin’s more than three decades of teaching and practicing dermatology in central Kentucky. The stories echo with humor, empathy and common sense.
One of his goals with the book was to bring to the forefront the importance of humor in medicine, Tobin said.
“People sometimes mistake humor for trivializing the seriousness of a condition,” he explained. “Rather it helps people cope better with serious situations.”
Tobin said he has found that even when facing the direst medical issues, people still want to laugh. And that is a good thing.
“Humor robs fear of its paralyzing power,” Tobin writes in his book, adding, “It gives patients a sense that the doctor is really listening to and hearing their concerns. It makes the whole doctor-patient relationship more effective, and I wanted to chronicle that and make people aware of it.”
The pages of “Rash Decisions and Growth Experiences” overflow with anecdotes both poignant and funny from Tobin’s medical practice and teaching experiences. Tobin said one of his favorite stories in the book was the first one narrating interactions with a patient, “Colonel Punkett,” whom Tobin always greeted with a salute.
Tobin wrote that he and the colonel shared many humorous stories over the years, and that he liked that story because it illustrated how a patient and physician can bond.
“It was a personal relationship in a professional setting,” he explained, adding that he feels that is something that can get lost in today’s medical world where the personal touch is often diminished by the growing technological quality of medicine.
Humor has always been a hallmark of Tobin’s interactions with patients and students. In fact, the title of the book came from a sign needlepointed by his staff that hung in his office for many years: “Best Little Warthouse in Kentucky.”
“My sense of humor is the only sense that hasn’t totally deserted me,” he said with a smile. “It makes the diminution of the other senses more tolerable.”
Tobin said the book took 15 years to write, but its publication has been a great sense of accomplishment.
“I always felt that somewhere inside me was someone who could write,” he said. “The jury’s still out on that.”
Joking aside, he said the response from readers has been very positive.
“People say, ‘I hear your voice when I read these stories.’”
Real names are not used in the book, but the characters are so thinly disguised that Tobin’s friends and longtime Richmond residents can guess who he’s talking about.
Just to be safe, however, Tobin said he got permission from those he based stories on and paid a legal expert to review the text and ensure that laws protecting patient privacy were not violated.
As for the future, Tobin says he has two or three more books he wants to write. But that may take some time as he currently serves as the chief of the Division of Dermatology, the Ullin Leavell Professor of Dermatology and Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of Kentucky medical school. And that’s in addition to his daily clinic hours and his work consulting for all UK hospitals.
“I hope I live long enough to do all the things I want to do,” Tobin said with a smile.
He will be reading from his book and signing copies from 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Richmond location of the Madison County Public Library.
The event is free and open to the public.
For more details about the event or to reserve a copy of the book to check out, go to www.madisonlibrary.org.
Autographed copies of the book are also available from the author for $24.99 plus tax by emailing Tobin at firstname.lastname@example.org. There also is a Facebook page for the book.
In addition to the medical practice he began here in the 1970s, Tobin has been actively engaged in Madison County’s public life.
He played a lead role in creation of the county’s public library system and served as its board chair for several years. And he has been active in the Friends of EKU Libraries. He also has served on the county health board for many years and is currently its chair.