Patients who walk into orthopedic surgeon Richard Brown's office in Del Mar, California, might be curious about the unexpected poster hanging on the waiting room wall: a jaguar emerges from the darkness, half cast in shadow, with "Scalpel's Plunge" in blood-red letters scrawled across the top. The poster celebrates Brown's second novel, Scalpels Plunge: End of the Party, which was released in November 2021.
"It's a great conversation starter with patients," Brown tells Medscape Medical News. "It can make people who have some doctor-phobia a little bit more comfortable with me. They can see me as something different."
Scalpels Plunge is the sequel to Brown's debut novel, Scalpel's Cut, which he self-published in 2018. Both novels, described as medical thrillers, borrow from Brown's almost 30 years as an orthopedic hand surgeon.
His first novel follows protagonist Erik "VJ" Brio, MD, as he discovers a crime organization called The Cooperative committing massive fraud at the hospital where he works as an orthopedic surgeon. VJ teams up with medical student Tess Risdall to help protect himself, his family, and to end the corruption marrying the medical world to the world of organized crime.
Now, in Scalpel's Plunge, readers are brought back to VJ Brio's fantastic adventures as he travels around the world to put an end to The Foundation, a global group with limitless potential for financial harm.
"It's a beach read. It's not super serious," Brown says of his passion project. "I don't want a book club reading it and picking it apart. It's supposed to just be fun — this isn't a John Grisham thing."
The orthopedic surgeon has had a passion for creative writing for most of his life, writing for his school publications in both high school and college, as well as penning essays to friends and letters to the editor for his local newspaper.
"Writing is a great way for me to channel my frustrations," he says. "I only write about what I'm passionate about, and this feels a lot more productive than complaining."
Along with the enjoyment that Brown has had writing his novels, the books are also being used as a way to boost donations for Doctors Without Borders. His debut novel raised over $44,000 for the organization. All proceeds from book sales go to the group through Amazon. His goal is to raise $50,000 this second time around, and as of January 2022, he's only $5000 away from meeting that goal.
Brown has been a supporter of Doctors Without Borders for more than 15 years now, ever since he began to read about the crisis in Sudan in the early 2000s. "It was horrendous what was going on there. And I felt impotent to help." A friend told him about the work that Doctors Without Borders was doing for victims of the violence in Sudan, and Brown began personally donating to them and spreading the word.
"In every book, there's a bookmark encouraging readers to donate $25 to Doctors Without Borders. Once people get the name of the organization, they're much more likely to support them in the future," he told Medscape.
With a third novel in the works and the hopes of turning his books into a TV series, fans of both Brown and Dr Brio's crime-fighting escapades are sure to be satisfied ― and do some good in the process.
Brown has enjoyed writing, but he isn't interested in making it his new career. He still enjoys his work as an orthopedic hand surgeon as well as meeting and talking to new patients.
"There are still so many people who still need help," he said.
Images: Richard Brown
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Cite this: Medical Thrillers Raise Nearly $90K for Doctors Without Borders - Medscape - Jan 26, 2022.