Doctor releases story collectionWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Dr. Blair Grubb has turned his experiences as a physician into “The Calling,” a book published by the University of Toledo Press. His book is a collection of several short stories detailing personal interactions between Grubb and his patients.
“The things that make my job the most meaningful are these interactions with people,” said Grubb, a professor at UT and director of University of Toledo Medical Center’s electrophysiology program. “If you deal with sick people, you see them at their best and their worst.”
Grubb spent his childhood outside of Baltimore in rural Maryland.
“I grew up in the middle of nowhere, actually on the outer limits of the middle of nowhere,” he said.
He went to vocational high school and worked as an electrician and construction worker, putting himself through the University of Maryland.
“I didn’t want to keep doing that so I went to medical school,” Grubb laughed. He attended the Universidad Central del Este in the Dominican Republic, where he met his wife, Barbara. They have been married for 35 years and have two adult children.
Grubb completed his residency training at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center and later did a rotation at Johns Hopkins Hospital. At Johns Hopkins, Grubb witnessed some of the first defibrillator implants and became interested in cardiac electrophysiology, which deals with heart-rhythm disturbances. After a fellowship at Penn State University, he came to Toledo.
Barbara, along with a nontraditional patient, encouraged Grubb to write. In the mid-1990s, Grubb began corresponding with a French physician who had a sick grandchild. Over the Atlantic Ocean, through faxes and phone calls, Grubb recommended tests and treatments for the child, who eventually got well. In 1996, Grubb went to speak in France and was able to meet the family that he had helped. The child’s grandmother, afflicted with breast cancer, gave Grubb a menorah rescued from the Holocaust.
“I was very emotionally distraught about the whole thing and I had a hard time telling the story and still have a hard time telling the story; and my wife said when I came back to the States, ‘Why don’t you write it down?’” Grubb said. He submitted the story to the Annals of Internal Medicine, a journal for physicians. The editor was so taken with the piece that he bumped what was slated to run.
Grubb received 500 letters on the story.
“What’s interesting is I’ve published 200 and some papers, scientific papers; I get invited to speak all over. I have never gotten anything like the response I got from that piece,” he said. He went on to write more articles and served on the editorial board of the Pacing and Clinical Electrophysiology journal. The editor, Dr. Seymour Furman, asked Grubb to be the editor of a human interest section in the journal. The caveat was that Grubb would have to write for the section if there wasn’t a submission.
“So I thought ‘Oh my God, what am I gonna write about?’ Then right after that, my dad died, I got real sick at one point, I had cancer at one point, a whole bunch of things happened at one point. And I felt like saying ‘Thank you for the prompt response, but you can stop now, I have plenty to write about,’” Grubb said and laughed.
A little more than a year ago, Joel Lipman of the UT Press approached Grubb to compile some of these stories into a book. The book’s local ties are important to Grubb.
“I’m very glad it was done by the UT Press,” he said, adding, “This book has been produced, planned and distributed locally. It’s something for our community, something that’s uniquely ours.”
“The Calling” is available for $15 at www.utoledopress.com/thecalling.html.