On The Table Read, “The Best Book Reader Magazine in the UK“, Doctor Rod Tanchanco discusses his new book, First Patients: The Incredible True Stories Of Pioneer Patients, about the history of the first patients to experience a range of medical treatments.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Rod Tanchanco about his new book, First Patients: The Incredible True Stories of Pioneer Patients, what inspired him to write it, and the research that went into compiling his stories.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
My name is Rod Tanchanco, author of FIRST PATIENTS: The incredible true stories of pioneer patients. I have been a physician for 30 years, currently working in clinical research. I’ve enjoyed writing since I was much younger.
I remember my brother and I creating a newspaper and magazines for the family compound. Later, I found myself writing for school newspapers, yearbooks, submitting articles to magazines.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
Sometime around 2012
When did you take a step to start writing?
At about the same time, 2012.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
Almost 10 years. It was mostly complete in 2014, and then it hibernated until I decided to bring it out again in 2021.
What made you want to write FIRST PATIENTS: The Incredible True Stories Of Pioneer Patients?
When I discovered enough stories that I found captivating enough to research and write about. I believed that if they were interesting enough for me, if I told the stories well, others would too.
What were your biggest challenges with writing FIRST PATIENTS: The Incredible True Stories Of Pioneer Patients?
Finding time (and sometimes energy) to write.
What was your research process for FIRST PATIENTS: The Incredible True Stories Of Pioneer Patients?
When I read the story about the first pacemaker, I thought that would be an interesting theme – finding less known stories of the people caught in the middle of important medical milestones. I looked for personal ordeals, conflicts, threats to values in the context of their time and situation.
Sources were quite varied: medical journal articles from the medieval period to the present, newspaper accounts, books, magazine articles, museums, experts, medical charts, personal biographies, interviews, correspondence with the involved characters.
How did you plan the structure of FIRST PATIENTS: The Incredible True Stories Of Pioneer Patients?
It’s a collection of stories and I was initially not sure how to sequence them. Should I group them by theme? By time periods? By common links? In the end, I agreed with my editor’s advice to sequence them chronologically from oldest to most recent.
For the structure of the individual stories, I followed the familiar story arc, applied as best as possible to a creative nonfiction narrative.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did FIRST PATIENTS: The Incredible True Stories Of Pioneer Patients need?
Yes. I hired a professional editor who worked on the manuscript for about 3-4 months. Before it got to her, I had revised and edited it—I don’t know how many times. I wanted it to be as polished as possible even before hitting the editor’s desk. By the time the editor got it, she told me halfway through that it was “in good shape” to start with, but she still needed to be meticulously thorough.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
Write it first for yourself with no expectations, but for the joy and satisfaction of completing it.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
Sure. I work in clinical research so I am naturally interested in stories about human experimentation. I am also a Filipino-American and would love to write about my birth country. So, a story about a disastrous clinical trial on Philippine prisoners during the American colonial period naturally caught my attention.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Yes, I am proud. Absolutely worth the effort.
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