With a Foreword by Nathaniel Philbrick, author of the bestseller In the Heart of the Sea
If you need an appendectomy, he can do it with a stone scalpel he carved himself. If you have a condition nobody can diagnose—“creeping eruption” perhaps—he can identify what it is, and treat it. A baby with toe-tourniquet syndrome, a human leg that’s washed ashore, a horse with Lyme disease, a narcoleptic falling face-first in the street, a hermit living underground—hardly anything is off-limits for Dr. Timothy J. Lepore.
This is the spirited, true story of a colorful, contrarian doctor on the world-famous island of Nantucket. Thirty miles out to sea, in a strikingly offbeat place known for wealthy summer people but also home to independent-minded, idiosyncratic year-rounders, Lepore holds the life of the island, often quite literally, in his hands. He’s surgeon, medical examiner, football team doctor, tick expert, unofficial psychologist, accidental homicide detective, occasional veterinarian. When crisis strikes, he’s deeply involved.
He’s treated Jimmy Buffett, Chris Matthews, and various Kennedy relatives, but he makes house calls for anyone and lets people pay him nothing—or anything: oatmeal raisin cookies, a weather-beaten .44 Magnum, a picture of a Nepalese shaman.
Lepore can be controversial and contradictory, espousing conservative views while performing abortions and giving patients marijuana cookies. He has unusual hobbies: he’s a gun fanatic, roadkill collector, and concocter of pastimes like knitting dog-hair sweaters.
Ultimately, Island Practice is about a doctor utterly essential to a community at a time when medicine is increasingly money-driven and impersonal. Can he remain a maverick even as a healthcare chain subsumes his hospital? Every community has—or, some would say, needs—a Doctor Lepore, and his island’s drive to retain individuality in a cookie-cutter world is echoed across the country.
Belluck, a health writer for the New York Times, introduces readers to Dr. Timothy Lepore, an eccentric jack-of-all-trades practicing in Nantucket he's a surgeon, physician, psychiatrist, and occasional veterinarian, and he's got a cache of 200 guns booby-trapped with tear gas. In page-turning prose, Belluck details some of Lepore's remarkable cases and his decidedly unique methods of diagnosing and treating patients (e.g., if a patient wants to leave the hospital before Lepore gives the go-ahead, he "just takes their pants away"). When 56-year-old Elliot Norton came in with a droopy lip and feeling generally unwell, Lepore thought "Something smell wrong," and ordered a CAT scan, revealing several potentially deadly aneurysms. He even saved the toes of a two-month-old by spotting the rare "toe-tourniquet syndrome," which is caused by hair wrapping around infants' toes and cutting off circulation. Truly dedicated to his community, Lepore allows patients to come to his home, provides treatment in trade (opting for cookies or a handgun in lieu of cash), and though he doesn't agree with legalizing marijuana ("people don't handle it right in this culture"), he'll procure weed brownies for cancer patients. Inspiring and entertaining, Lepore's story and his beloved island come to life in Belluck's hands.