Get to know...Radiologist and debut novelist Heather Frimmer
WESTPORT — Heather Frimmer knows something about the medical world described in her debut novel, because she is a doctor.
“Although I do love my job, it can be a little repetitive and doesn’t exercize certain corners of my brain as much as I would like, so I wanted to do something a little more creative,” Frimmer said of her foray into writing and novel “Bedside Manners,” available on Amazon Oct. 16.
An avid reader since she was a child growing up in Albany, N.Y., Frimmer, 44, chose to go the scientific route for her career because she loved science and biology. By the time Frimmer, a Weston resident, was a senior in high school, she knew she wanted to be a doctor and went to Brandeis University to pursue her undergraduate studies, followed by medical school at Cornell Medical College in Manhattan.
In medical school, Frimmer discovered a love for radiology, which allowed her to take care of all types of patients and parts of the body, and help solve the diagnosis puzzle for patients.
Frimmer completed a fellowship in breast and abdominal imagery at Yale New Haven Hospital, followed by 12 years in the radiology department of Norwalk Hospital. She left this summer to work at NewYork Presbyterian Hosptial in Queens, where Frimmer does a mix of breast and emergency room radiology.
On a whim in 2014, Frimmer signed up for an introductory fiction writing class at the Westport Writers’ Workshop taught by Westporter Sally Allen. At the end of the class, Allen told Frimmer she thought Frimmer could write a novel.
“I said to her, you’re insane. I don’t have time to write a novel. I couldn’t do that,” Frimmer said. When she got home, Frimmer told her husband, Coleytown Middle School theater teacher Ben Frimmer, about Allen’s suggestion.
“He said of course you could do it if you wanted to. And I said, you think I could? He said you can do whatever you want to do, so I said ok, I’m going to do it. I’m going to write a novel,” Frimmer said.
For three years, Frimmer woke up at 5:30 a.m. to write for an hour befor her two sons, 10 and 12, woke up for school. Frimmer also wrote for a few hours on her day off on Wednesday, and read between 80 to 100 books per year to study her new craft.
“I’m kind of a driven person, definitely on the Type A side of things,” Frimmer said, adding she signed up for an advanced project-based class at the Writers’ Workshop to help complete her novel.
Centered around a mother-daughter duo stuck by the mother’s breast cancer diagnosis while the daughter is finishing medical school and plannng her wedding, “Bedside Manners” certainly has parallels to Frimmer’s own life.
“I knew I wanted to write something about what I do because I knew I could make it authentic and realistic, and I could really put my finger on the emotions behind the experience,” Frimmer said. “I love the idea of seeing both sides of the coin, the doctor and the patient experience side by side, a 360-degree view instead of just seeing one side of the story.”
“Bedside Manners” grapples with the challenge of a young doctor learning to confront mortality on a daily basis and the trials of a young woman searching for balance between her identity as a doctor and as the daughter of a patient — a struggle Frimmer says hits close to home.
“I’m always either the mom or the doctor or the daughter or the sister, and it’s hard to switch hats quickly and know which hat you’re wearing and when. I’m also the go-to person for any medical questions in my family and for all my friends, and I have to sometimes say I can’t bet he doctor right now, I have to be your friend,” Frimmer said.
The daughter in Frimmer’s book struggles with the differences between her fiances background and her own, but Frimmer said the pair is not modeled off her own marriage. She said she and Ben have more in common than one would guess from looking at their careers.
“We met on Jdate.com, which is a Jewish dating service. I have my medical career and then my writing, which is the creative side. Ben teaches theater, which is his creative side, but he’s also an EMT,” Frimmer said. “It just so happens that my volunteer position, which is my writing, is my creative side and his volunteer position is his medical side.
While Frimmer prepares for the release of her book, published by SparkPress, a hybrid self-publishing and traditional publishing company, she is also working on a second novel, which is also set in the medical world and delves into the familial and emotional challenges that arise at the cusp of the challenge for health.
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