Gayle Woodson, MD, is a writer. Her first novel, After Kilimanjaro, was published in October 2019 (She Writes Press) and earned great reviews, including one from Kirkus Reviews stating that the story is “begging for a sequel.” She is also professor emerita and a former chair of otolaryngology at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield.
Explore This IssueDecember 2019
Now 69, Dr. Woodson lives on Merritt Island in Florida with her husband, Tom Robbins, after retiring from academics in 2015. There, Dr. Woodson writes and volunteers at a local medical clinic for people without health insurance called Space Coast Volunteers in Medicine. She and her husband also travel to Tanzania twice a year to work with and mentor early-
career otolaryngologists with the Tanzania Medical Society.
Dr. Woodson talked to ENTtoday about how she got her start in writing and what inspires her.
ENTtoday: Your first novel, After Kilimanjaro, was published late last year. What is the story’s inspiration?
Dr. Woodson: The book is inspired by the work my husband and I do in Tanzania, but it is not a memoir. We are old guys who rebooted the otolaryngology residency program at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre there. The heroine in my book, Sarah Whitaker, is a young general surgery resident who takes a break year in Tanzania and winds up teaching traditional midwives in a remote mountain village.
ENTtoday: Will there be a sequel?
GW: It was not something I intended to do. I am currently editing a novel set in Texas that is an attempted murder mystery, with a victim in a coma from anoxic brain damage, in a small town devastated by the opioid epidemic. But my beta readers all said they wanted more. So now I am researching the sequel, wherein After Kilimanjaro’s heroine ventures into the Congo. (I wish I were brave enough to go there!) This is actually a spoiler; in After Kilimanjaro, Sarah gets into some hairy and potentially fatal situations. Having a sequel makes it obvious that she survives.
ENTtoday: How did you get interested in writing? What authors do you like?
GW: As a child, I was a bookworm—the kind of kid who read under the covers with a flashlight. Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was amazing, and I liked Marguerite Henry’s work. As I got older, I read some James Thurber, some Ray Bradbury, and I really liked Kurt Vonnegut. I always dreamed of writing a book. When I went to college, I intended to be a journalist and started out majoring in English. But I became fascinated with molecular genetics and physiology. Then came the woman’s liberation movement, and medical school began to open up to women.