Woog’s World Doctor, author leads a life busier than most
All of us lead busy lives. But Heather Frimmer’s is busier than most.
She’s the mother of two tweens. The graduate of Weill Cornell Medical College recently left a position with Norwalk Radiology Associates, and now commutes to a practice in Queens, N.Y., where she is a breast imager.
Next month her debut novel will be published.
They say you should write about what you know. “Bedside Manners” is about a woman named Marnie who completes med school, and is looking ahead to a surgical internship, her wedding and a future filled with promise. Suddenly, her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer.
Meanwhile, Marnie faces her own mortality when a young heroin addict in her care dies. Marnie must strike a balance between her identity as a doctor, and her role as a supportive daughter.
Frimmer’s book is “a medical story, a mother-daughter tale, and a coming-of-age narrative” all in one, said Westporter Alisyn Camerota, co-host of CNN’s “New Day” morning show, and a novelist herself.
Another Westport author, Nina Sankovitch, calls it “a genuine depiction of love, fear and hope. (It) both educates and satisfies in presenting how we endure illness and bad choices — by forging essential human connections, and trusting the most important organ of all: our heart.”
Judith Marks-White — a third Westport writer — said, “Frimmer’s experience as a physician serves her well, and adds real gravitas to her story. Her sophisticated, descriptive and insightful writing shines, and will grip readers from page one all the way to its breathtaking conclusion. It is a delicious page-turner that will seduce you into wanting to read more of this writer’s work.”
Another perspective comes from Norwalk Hospital breast oncologist Dr. Richard Zelkowitz. He said, “This book captures the anxiety and fear I see in all of my patients with breast cancer. The alternating story line highlights the struggles of medical training and learning to be a good doctor. I didn’t want this book to end.”
Frimmer’s career in medicine began with thoughts of primary care or pediatrics. But when she realized that radiology offers the challenge of problem-solving, plus the chance to work with a wide range of patients and doctors, she was hooked.
When she finished her residency, her husband — Ben Frimmer, a Westport native and longtime theater director at Coleytown Middle School — urged her to look for fellowships in Connecticut. She found one in breast and abdominal imaging at Yale New Haven Medical Center.
She became a partner at Norwalk Radiology, working with superb local professionals like Jeanne Capasse, Mandy Greenberg, Richard Zelkowitz and Mary Heery, before moving to her position in Queens.
Moving next door to her husband’s home town has been wonderful, she said. “The Westport/Weston community is so warm and welcoming. The arts are flourishing. The local author community has welcomed me with open arms, and done everything they can to make sure my writing career is a success.”
That writing career took flight with an introductory fiction class at the Westport Writers’ Workshop. The radiologist had written short stories, but instructor Sally Allen encouraged her to try a novel.
It was a daunting prospect for anyone, let alone a busy Fairfield County doctor and mother. But her husband said, “Write that book. Here’s the first word: ‘colostomy.’ ”
Frimmer rose to the challenge. “I don’t watch TV. I don’t sit still. And I don’t waste time,” she said, explaining how she managed to add “author” to her already impressive resume.
“Bedside Manners” took three years to finish. (And the first word is not colostomy, though it does appear in the first chapter.)
Then came the tough part: getting it published. But Frimmer solved that puzzle too. The official publication date is Oct. 16.
She’s already got her talking points down pat. Experienced authors know they should answer the “who’s the intended audience?” question with three groups.
Frimmer replied, “Anyone who likes medical stories, or shows like ‘Gray’s Anatomy’ or ‘ER.’ ” (She may not watch TV, but she sure knows what’s on.) Her book should also appeal to “women who have had breast cancer, and anyone who’s seen a doctor.”
There’s a lot going on in Frimmer’s life right now. In addition to motherhood and her new book, she’s got that new commute to Queens.
To pass the time, she listens to audiobooks. Will “Bedside Manners” have an audio version?
“That might be my next project!” she said with a laugh.
Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his “Woog’s World” appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His personal blog is danwoog06880.com.