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I start writing only when I am inspired to
By Ngo Le Kha
Dr. Le Dinh Phuong has just had his first autobiographical writing titled ‘The Last Patient Of The Day’ published, which has been nurtured for 10 years or so. This is the collection of his most pleasing articles posted on some newspapers on medicine, journals on travel and music. ‘The writing is just a shorthand memoir completed after years of slow thinking’, said its author.
Hi there, how can I address you – Doctor or writer Le Dinh Phuong?
I do not prefer to be called a writer. How embarrassing it would be! (Grinning). Just call me doctor. It’s my main job, you see.
You chose the title ‘The Last Patient’ for your collection. You mean to tell you’re an amateur writer to lessen the public strict criticism, don’t you?
Actually I didn’t think so when choosing a title. I have written so much on any topic that I like. Some writing is for me myself only while the other will be shared by friends. Even some pieces of writing are just the collection of trivial thoughts about the disorder ahead, and ‘The Last Patient Of The Day’ is one of the sort. It is also my favorite as it changes the way I think about life and death. So I chose it as the whole collection’s title.
Besides, only as a doctor can I talk about my patients and other medical matters seriously and professionally.
Tell us a bit about the context of the collection, will you?
It was a late afternoon a year ago when I met a special patient. She was the wife of Nguyen Van H., homeless children’s dad and Thao Dan social work’s founder. My talk with her, named L., a French film director lasted for only 15 minutes, it completely changed the way I thought about life though. Their love story was as nice as fairy tales. I seem too small compared with these great people.
Quite a few pieces in the collection has been posted on some newspapers, like Marketing Saigon, The Youth, Weekend Saigon Businessmen, Laborers, etc. When did you discover your gift at writing?
I didn’t get into the habit of writing during childhood. Sometimes I wrote for fun. I have never thought of having my works posted in printed media. Back to 10 years ago, there was a hot debate on the strengths and weaknesses of Viagra when the pretty exotic drug was first introduced into Vietnam. Then I wrote a medical tale about Viagra with some sense of humor in which I conveyed some details about pharmacokinetics and the way of using drugs appropriately. I though it was just a humorous medical tale. Thus, the fact that the story was posted and warmly praised was beyond my expectation. I have some works posted since then and received some royalty to enjoy with friends in pubs.
Your works come from sheer inspiration, don’t they?
Not really. I compose out of my inspiration, almost aimlessly. But what I write is my constant thoughts. My ideas suddenly ooze out as soon as they are mature. I can’t help, I have to hold a pen and write at once. I can’t redo that job if I let the moment pass by for just 15 minutes.
Take ‘Viet minds on US land’ as an example. It doesn’t take me long to type, to be honest. However, it takes me up to 3 years to recollect all experiences in the trip and write them down. I composed it in a very special way i.e. I wrote with great passion and at one breath. I could not write over 2 sentences if I were asked to rewrite it (Grinning).
You are also a doctor of many gifts, writing, playing the piano, even photography. Among the three things, which do you like the best?
I love photography and literature, but my greatest passion is for music. I have been harbored the dream of being a pianist since my childhood. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be, so I am now just an amateur player. What can be read in my music journals are my opinions as a listener who both enjoys and studies alike. I find myself lucky with classical music, which is the most precious thing I absorb from my schooling. I specially admire Chopin, who I would spend my whole lifetime listening to and studying if I weren’t a doctor. (Grinning)
How happy it is that both of my sons, who are studying abroad, love that kind of music. Generally I feel reassured although I feel worried about them sometimes. I’m pretty sure that hardly anyone can go evil once falling in love with classical music. You can hardly name me one classical master who has a deteriorating lifestyle. It was such pure music that it can rinse their soul and make them good men or kind men at least. To be a kind person would not be an easy job, you see.
Many doctors, like Do Minh Tuan, or Le Thuy Tuoi are gifted at writing and talking have worked as health consultants on media. Have you ever thought of this direction?
I have participated into some health consultation shows on TV, most of which are about hepatitis virus. Just frequently watch ‘Hi a new day’ show on HTV 7 channel, you can find me there, in a series called ‘Stories about liver’. It is a series produced by me and my friends at Vision 21 Company. It is highly appreciated as it is humorous and not as threatening as other medical programs. If I have time, I will expand this series further, making medical knowledge, especially hepatitis B virus and C virus, more accessible
The last question, do you intend to unveil a second ‘The last patient of the day’?
I have never thought of being an author. That ‘The Last Patient Of The day’ was born nicely and smoothly has gone beyond expectation. Its birth should be attributed to my friends who have helped me greatly. There are some other pieces of writing that I keep for myself and post on my blog. The second book will come out as soon as the condition is favorable and the readers support.
Thanks for your sincere sharing.