Over his decade-long career as a practicing physician, Dr. Ricardo Nuila’s first-hand experiences have fueled his writing on health disparities, healthcare policy, and the interface between art and medicine. His stunning debut, The People’s Hospital: Hope and Peril in American Medicine, details the stories of five Houstonians unable to access healthcare in his hometown of Houston, TX. Where does one go without health insurance, when turned away by hospitals, clinics, and doctors?
“A doctor and professor of medicine adds personal texture to one of the most divisive issues of our time… Nuila’s complete, deeply personal dedication to his content and his exceptional command of prose allow him to translate the mercy, authority, and sense of urgency that patients want at their bedsides and citizens want in policy debates… A compassionate, engrossing story of frustrated hopes and unlikely victories in American health care.”—Kirkus (starred review)
In The People’s Hospital, Nuila introduces readers to Stephen, the restaurant franchise manager who signed up for his company’s lowest-priced plan, only to find himself facing insurmountable costs after a cancer diagnosis. Then Christian—a young college student and retail worker who cannot seem to get an accurate diagnosis, let alone treatment, for his debilitating knee pain. Geronimo, thirty-six years old, has liver failure, but his meager disability check disqualifies him for Medicaid—and puts a life-saving transplant just out of reach. Roxana, who’s lived in the community without a visa for more than two decades, suffers from complications related to her cancer treatment. And finally, there’s Ebonie, a young mother whose high-risk pregnancy endangers her life. Whether due to immigration status, income, or the vagaries of state Medicaid law, all five are denied access to care. For all five, this exclusion could prove life-threatening.
Each patient eventually lands at Ben Taub Hospital, the county hospital where Dr. Nuila has worked for over a decade. Nuila delves with empathy into the experiences of his patients, braiding their dramas into a singular narrative that contradicts the established idea that the only way to receive good healthcare is with good insurance. As readers follow the movingly rendered twists and turns in each patient’s story, it is impossible to deny that the US healthcare system is broken—and that Ben Taub’s innovative model, which emphasizes people over payments, could help reimagine the path forward.
“Ricardo Nuila takes a literary scalpel to the U.S. medical system to reveal the cancer of greed ravaging patients in Houston and throughout the country. Fortunately for us, his skillful, even beautiful dissection of the disease of false hope reveals the healthy, pumping heart of living, breathing and serving doctors and workers of Ben Taub hospital. The People’s Hospital is the antidote to hopelessness in healthcare that prevails.”—Roberto Lovato, author of Unforgetting
Dr. Nuila is an associate professor of medicine, medical ethics, and health policy at Baylor College of Medicine, where he directs the Humanities Expression and Arts Lab [HEAL] program. His work and research on the use of arts and humanities in medical practice have been supported by the Association of American Medical Colleges, and he has received fellowships for his writing from MacDowell, Yaddo, the Logan Nonfiction Program, and the Texas Institute of Letters. His features and essays have appeared in Texas Monthly, The New York Times Sunday Review, VQR, The Atlantic.com, and the New England Journal of Medicine. His short fiction has appeared in Best American Short Stories, McSweeney’s, Guernica, and other magazines.here.