John H. Fitchen, MD, is an Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University. After nearly twenty years in academics, he accepted a leadership role at Epitope, Inc., the Portland based biotech company that developed OraSure, the first and only oral HIV test. He is the author of Birding Portland and Multnomah County, and has published articles in The Atlantic, Birding, the New England Journal of Medicine and dozens of other peer reviewed medical journals. He is an avid birder and lives in Portland, Oregon, with Ellen, his wife of 48 years.
John H. Fitchen, MD
Place of Birth
Amherst, U Rochester School of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science
University (internship and residency), UCLA (fellowship in hematology/oncology)
Why did you choose to come to Amherst
My brother Allen went to Amherst, class of ‘58. So I got to visit campus and hear about it firsthand. Through him I learned about Early Decision, and that was my one and only college application.
Most memorable or most influential class at Amherst
English 1 (see the excerpt and chapter 4)
Most memorable or most influential professor
Richard T Yost, Jr, professor of biology, and later, president of the American Association of University Professors (see chapter 4)
H ematopoietic stem cell function and dysfunction — how the bone marrow makes blood cells and how this can go wrong (see chapter 12)
Awards and Prizes
Top Ten Teachers Award, Chief Resident’s Teaching Award, Course of the Year five years in a row, all at what is now Oregon Health & Science University
The Right Stuff
John D MacDonald
Tips for Aspiring Writers
Find good help: readers, editors, PR/marketing. Something that surprised me was how much work remained after the writing was largely completed: more editing, design choices, images (scanning, formatting, copyright permissions), pricing, marketing/promotion. It’s also important to be open to criticism; the thicker your skin the better, in order to be open to discourse and clarity.
Tell Us a Bit About Your Path to Becoming an Author
My mother was a high school English teacher, my father a professor of fine arts, my Amherst professors of writing were rigorous and challenging, so by the time I reached medical school I felt comfortable and confident in my ability to write. I’ve published some 50 scientific papers during my medical career. After a “Big Year” (during which I identified as many bird species as possible in my home county; see chapter 18), I shared tips in my first book, Birding Portland & Multnomah County . It was my sons and their friends who encouraged me to write down the stories that I’d share at our poker games. Their energy and enthusiasm were the seeds that grew into a fully fledged book (no pun intended).