Harvard Book Store welcomes oncologist and author AZRA RAZA—Chan Soon-Shiong Professor of Medicine and Director, MDS Center at Columbia University—for a discussion of her new book, The First Cell: And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last. She will be joined in conversation by DR. PETER D. KRAMER, psychiatrist, writer, and Brown Medical School professor.
We have lost the war on cancer. We spend $150 billion each year treating it, yet—a few innovations notwithstanding—a patient with cancer is as likely to die of it as one was fifty years ago. Most new drugs add mere months to one’s life at agonizing physical and financial cost.
In The First Cell, Azra Raza offers a searing account of how both medicine and our society (mis)treats cancer, how we can do better, and why we must. A lyrical journey from hope to despair and back again, The First Cell explores cancer from every angle: medical, scientific, cultural, and personal. Indeed, Raza describes how she bore the terrible burden of being her own husband’s oncologist as he succumbed to leukemia. Like When Breath Becomes Air, The First Cell is no ordinary book of medicine, but a book of wisdom and grace by an author who has devoted her life to making the unbearable easier to bear.
“Raza, a Columbia University professor of medicine and practicing oncologist, offers a passionate account of how humans grapple with the scourge of cancer. . . . Showing that compassion is just as important for cancer patients as the drugs administered to them, Raza’s deeply personal work brings understanding and empathy to the fore in a way that a purely scientific explication never could.” ―Publishers Weekly
“With elegant literary references and a compassion that deeply personalizes her interactions with patients and families, [Raza] engages readers in a commitment to finding a better way. Intelligence, empathy, and optimism inform the argument for new research on cancer that could obviate the suffering prevalent today.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Azra Raza is famed as a titan in the field of oncology. Perhaps less well-known is that she is a sensitive and passionate writer as well. In The First Cell she combines the scientific and the human, medicine and the arts, to give us a unique view into something that touches all of our lives—offering us reasons for hope, and reasons also for sorrow.” ―Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Exit West
Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.