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Volume 26, Number 7 — July 2019

Author/Doctor Says US Health System Is Worst Worldwide

Author Dr. Robin Cook recently spoke at the Bristol Public Library. (Photo by Earl Neikirk|Bristol Herald Courier)
Author Dr. Robin Cook recently spoke at the Bristol Public Library. (Photo by Earl Neikirk|Bristol Herald Courier)

By Amy Hunter | Bristol Herald Courier | April 28, 2008

*** This story appeared Sunday, April 20, 2008 in the Bristol Herald Courier.***

BRISTOL, Va. ? Dozens of people came to the Bristol Public Library on Saturday to hear a well-known medical doctor speak about his career. But it wasn't his MD that drew them. They came to meet the man whose words had entertained them since 1972, when the first of his 27 novels was published.

"He seemed very approachable, just like a regular guy," said Julie Drake, who came to hear Dr. Robin Cook.

Cook, whose books include Coma and Outbreak, both of which were made into films, as well as Invasion, Vital Signs and Fever, to name a few, kicked off a new program at the library as the first of nine guest speakers who have been invited to speak in Bristol in the coming months.

The program, Discovery Series 2008, is a new effort by the library made possible by a $1.2 million grant, which helped them to bring a number of big names to town, including Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's "Hardball," and Michael Beschloss, a well-known presidential historian and author.

"This is our inaugural event," said Jud Barry, library director. "There will be about one speaker a month until the end of fall."

Cook spoke for about 90 minutes on Saturday, then answered questions and autographed books. He mused about his years in medical school, which he said provided him with the subject matter for his first book, "Year of the Intern." The book, he said, was the product of a 75-day stint he spent in a submarine after he was drafted into the Navy. Cook went on to talk about writing his second book, "Coma," his first big-seller; problems with the health-care system in America and his latest projects, a movie and book he is currently working on.

Candy Snodgrass, who is on the library board and helped to organize Saturday's event, was pleased that Cook spoke about more than just his writing career. "It's always interesting to hear a doctor's opinion about the health care system," she said.

Cook spent about 20 minutes discussing the problems with health care in America. "Medicine in this country has not advanced socially," he said. "We have the worst health-care system in the world."

Cook elaborated by saying he thinks the current system is stymied by stakeholders whose primary interest is economic. "We have a lot of problems in this country with health care and none of the stakeholders want to do anything about it," he said. "This needs to be a grassroosts effort."

Cook said he believes there should be more treatment of common ailments should be performed by nurse practitioners, whose education is less expensive than those of specialists.

He also stressed his belief that health care is over-utilized, saying too many unnecessary medical procedures are taking place and costing money. "It's all become this economic nightmare," he said.

He discussed his new book that addresses "medical tourism," a developing trend among uninsured people and insurance companies that save money on medical procedures by outsourcing them overseas.

"A person has been paying a premium based on what a surgery costs in America, say, $80,000, and now insurance companies say 'we'll pay your airfare [to India, for example], put you up in a nice hotel, pay for the surgery, pay for you to recover in a 5-star resort and give you $4,000 in spending money,'" he said. "This package costs insurance companies $30,000 and they end up banking $50,000."

Snodgrass said she was pleased with how the event turned out and was excited about future speakers. "I hope we'll have more and more people," she said. "There is something for everyone."

For more information about the series, visit

A! ExtraTopics: Literature