About Tom’s Alaskan Memoir

My memoir is a true-life adventure story that follows the path of an idealist young man (myself) as he struggles to free himself from the clutches of a dysfunctional family to become a physician then only to be swept away, at the cusp of beginning his dream career, to the frozen, dark stretches of the Alaskan outback to serve as a bush doctor with the U.S. Public Health Service. Left with no other physicians to help, and in one of the world’s harshest environments, the young doctor is abandoned to live and perform extraordinary feats of medicine and surgery far beyond his, or any doctor’s, level of training or experience. The book a high concept, themed memoir that delves into the human spirit and explores one’s ability to learn from the past in order to survive chaos of the future.

The memoir begins in Nome, Alaska, but interspersed throughout are stories of events in my growing up years that demonstrate how those childhood lessons taught me how to adapt to the perilous conditions of life and work in the frozen north. Like most physicians, I was trained in conventional Western medicine, and when suddenly thrust into a position of delivering babies under light from Coleman lanterns, doing surgery on a bed of reindeer skins with little or no anesthesia and flashlights for illumination, and traveling across treacherous terrain on snowmachines or drudging through whiteouts to get to patients in need, I discovered a great deal of adaptation and improvisation were necessary. This memoir is the story of how that adaptation came about.

I had come to Nome a young doctor, full of enthusiasm but laden with self-doubt. I left a better man, a better husband and father and a better physician. Life and work in the arctic had directed me on a roadmap for my life that would guide me into the future. And at the very moment, when we left the arctic and my wife and I watched Nome fade away through the frosted glass of an aircraft window, I realized Nome had given more to me than I had ever given back to her in return.