About the Author: Dr. Aaron Carroll '94


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Learn more about the book:

Dr. Aaron E. Carroll

Current Home   
Zionsville, IN (suburb of Indianapolis)

Place of Birth   
Philadelphia, PA

The Haverford School ’90 (High School),
Amherst College ’94 (BA),
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine ’98 (MD),
University of Washington ’03 (MS)

Why did you choose to come to Amherst?        
I graduated from a small all-boys school in 1990. I wanted to go to a small college where I would feel like I knew people and would have smaller classes and more exposure to professors. I applied to Amherst for early decision in 1989 and was accepted!

Favorite (most memorable or most influential) class at Amherst
Legal Institutions and Democratic Practice (which I believe is still offered!)

Favorite (most memorable or most influential) professor
Lawrence Douglas (I blogged about both him and the class when I was subbing for Ezra Klein at the Washington Post’s blog http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/medicaid-planned-parenthood-and-the-law/2011/06/02/AGo817GH_blog.html)

Research Interests?
Most of my research concerns the use of information technology to improve pediatric care. I also do a fair amount of work in health policy areas, including decision analysis and cost-effectiveness analysis, malpractice, and health care reform.

Awards and Prizes
National Merit Scholar, Amherst College, 1990
Sigma Xi Honors Society, Amherst College, 1994
Graduation Speaker, Univ. of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 1998
Fellows Award, Ambulatory Pediatrics Association, 2002
Dr. Quentin Young Health Activist Award, 2006
IUPUI Trustees Teaching Award, 2010

Favorite Book
You’re killing me. There’s no way I can give just one, so here are my favorites. Hyperion, by Dan Simmons. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving. Mordant’s Need, by Stephen Donaldson. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. And anything by Robin Hobb.

Favorite Author
Robin Hobb. Dan Simmons is a close second.

Tips for aspiring writers?
Unfortunately, most people think writing is a skill you’re born with; it is absolutely not.  I am never going to write the great American novel.  But I can say, with some confidence, that I have become much, much better at it over time.  It takes practice.  It takes work.  It’s like any other skill in that the harder you work at it, the better you become.

I’ve also been impressed at how much you can learn by reading books about writing.  Here are some of the best I’ve encountered:

Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, by Roy Peter Clark.  No single book has helped my writing as much as this one.  It’s like the world’s greatest magician is taking you backstage and showing you how all the tricks work.  Another is On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King.  You may or may not like his fiction, but the man knows how to tell a story.  Finally, read as much as you can, from all genres, both fiction and non-fiction.

Tell us a bit about your path to becoming an author.
A number of years ago, I became preoccupied with how doctors believed medical myths just as regular people did. I convinced my fellow at the time to write up ten of them as a submission to a research meeting in pediatrics. When she presented the poster at the meeting, she was mobbed. I though perhaps we were on to something, and suggested we write it up as a manuscript and submit it to a medical journal. We sent it off to the BMJ (a rather prestigious journal), and it was accepted faster than any other work I’ve ever submitted.

More convinced than ever that this medical myth thing was a winner, I bought  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published and read it cover to cover. Although it was rather honest in that it’s almost impossible to get an agent, let alone sell a book, we write up a query letter and sent it off to six agents, one of whom was the author of the Idiot’s Guide. To our shock, five of the six asked to see the proposal, four of them within 24 hours. We quickly whipped up the proposal and sent it out. All five asked to represent us.

We chose our favorite, and she helped us fix up the proposal, Then she shopped it to publishers. We were thrilled to have more than one offer, and accepted the one from St. Martin’s Press, a division of Macmillan publishers. I recognize that our path was completely atypical, but I’m convinced that our luck was partly due to having a great idea, learning how to sell it, and being somewhat proficient at writing efficiently because of our day jobs. Regardless, publishing the books has been one of the highlights of my career.