Free Dancing: Random Stories from an Accidental Life

Secant Publishing

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In a collection of memories resembling pages snatched from a scrapbook, a leading physician and academic researcher reflects on the unpredictability of life.

To the consternation of his teacher at Nashville’s Glenn Elementary School, Ken Brigham would disrupt his first-grade class by bursting into tears for reasons neither he nor anyone else could understand; the resulting report card Cs in conduct only compounded the problem.

From that unlikely beginning, he became a teenage pop singer in a popular band (The Crescendos) with a bona fide Top 40 song that launched him on a yearlong tour of North America and introduced him to the spectacle of an unfamiliar lifestyle.

On weekends in college, he explored the allure of the pulpit, befitting a serious young man raised in a fundamentalist faith. But soon enough, higher education and the study of science softened the bedrock certitude of his upbringing.

His true gifts lay in the science and practice of medicine, which he recalls with great fondness and empathy. Medical school at Vanderbilt led to a series of life-altering experiences. A brief stint collecting blood samples from freshly slaughtered cattle in a Nashville abattoir left him with bespattered shirts and a dark apprehension of the closeness of death.

Throughout his career, the polarity and inseparability of life and death have haunted him, a platform for savoring good times and exotic destinations when they came his way. This tragic sense has also fueled Dr. Brigham’s avocation of writing fiction, including several published novels in which university hospitals provide the backdrop for tales of mystery, ambition, and suspense.

Now retired, the author looks back at a life that carried him to a series of academic pinnacles—The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore; the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta; the University of California, San Francisco; once more to Vanderbilt, in Nashville; and then, finally, to Atlanta’s Emory University.

Along the way, cancer’s “wicked wee beasties” complicated his journey twice, invading first his prostate, and then his pancreas. The most advanced care medicine has to offer saved him both times.

In the end, he discovers the meaning of life—at least, the meaning that has made his own life worth living—and shares it, generously and unironically, with the reader.

About the Author

Dr. Kenneth Brigham is retired from Emory University, where he was a professor of medicine and a biomedical researcher with a specialty in pulmonology. He also served as a health care administrator developing innovative models of proactive care, sometimes referred to as Predictive Health.

Today, Dr. Brigham and his physician wife, Dr. Arlene Stecenko, spend as much time as they can at their second home in Venice, a flat where this photo was taken. The bust on the shelf behind him, sculpted by the Venetian artist Giorgio Crivelli, depicts Dr. Stecenko.

The photo was taken on the author’s eighty-second birthday.

Photo by Arlene Stecenko

 


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