Dr. Daniel Way's second book, "Never a Dull Moment"
Writing is good medicine, at least for Dr. Daniel Way, but the jury’s still out on self-publishing.
Way will be launching his second book — “Never a Dull Moment: A Tapestry of Scenes & Stories from an Adirondack Medical Practice” — this weekend. At the same time, he will be honored by the Southern Adirondack Independent Living Center during the group’s Harvest Gala fundraiser at the Saratoga Holiday Inn.
And he hopes the books arrive on time.
“I wanted to have the book ready for sale at the gala on Oct. 19, and I started the publication process about six months ago,” Way said. “The time factor has been right down to the wire because I’m working so many long hours ... It’s going to turn out that I will receive the book two days before the gala, and I’m sweating bullets.”
Way is a primary care physician at the Indian Lake Health Center, operated by the Hudson Headwaters Health Network (HHHN), and has been with the Network for more than 30 years. His first book, “All in a Day’s Work: Scenes and Stories from an Adirondack Medical Practice,” published by Syracuse University Press in 2004, recounts the influences from his childhood that led to his career in medicine and passion for photographing and writing about his beloved Adirondacks.
For his second book, Way formed a publishing company — Indian Lake Press — to self-publish, and there was definitely a learning curve.
“I learned that publishing was more involved than I thought,” Way said. “Having to do things like bar code numbers and ISBNs assigned to the book and finding out that they cost a lot of money to get, and registering the name of my publishing company with the Hamilton County Clerk’s office ... establishing a company from scratch.”
The books have a lot in common, with stories about the doctor and some of his patients. The first book had more autobiographical information that describes what made the Glens Falls native interested in the Adirondacks and practicing medicine. The stories were, as a rule, more brief and less detailed.
“This new book is certainly a continuation of the same theme with some autobiographical stuff, but it’s more geared to portraying what it’s like to practice primary care medicine in a rural environment in the present day,” Way said.
“Never a Dull Moment” has been nine years in the making. In the time between writing the first book and the second one, technology changed in the worlds of photography and medicine. It’s all digital now.
“The pictures I took were with a film camera, and our office was based on paper. We were writing paper progress notes,” Way said of life during the production of his first book. “Now my cameras are digital and so is my record keeping. Everything is computerized.”
Like any technological change, moving from analog to digital has its pros and cons. Way’s photography has benefited, he said, but the digital record keeping has made his practice more stressful, even though the quality of documentation is better.
The new book
Way is pleased with the layout of “Never a Dull Moment.” The larger page size means larger images. At 160 pages, there is about 30 percent more text than the first book. And there’s more depth in the storytelling, with 40 people featured, including 32 patients, five doctors and a few notable Adirondack legends, such as environmentalist Clarence Petty and photographer Nathan Farb.
“I think the reader will find a whole spectrum of stories,” Way said. “Some of them are sad. Some of them are funny. Some of them are just bizarre and interesting. So there’s a little something for everybody.”
The cover images set the scene. The main photo is the Hudson River, looking upriver from the Route 28N bridge in North Creek. The three smaller images are of Dr. James Morrissey, Nathan Farb taking a photo on top of an Adirondack peak, and a view of a steamer on Lake George from the property of his uncle, Glens Falls dentist Richard Garrett.
In addition to the vignettes about Way’s patients, there are stories about doctors practicing in the Adirondacks, including his wife, Dr. Harriet Busch, who also works for HHHN; his boss at HHHN, Dr. John Rugge; Dr. Harry DePan, a Glens Falls surgeon who died in 2010; Dr. James Morrissey, a cardiologist in Glens Falls; and Dr. Daniel O’Keefe, “who delivered 10,000 babies in his career but decided to retire while he was still healthy and has enjoyed a whole second life after medicine.”
Way was so successful in compiling stories for this book, he decided to take out an entire section, the one about World War II veterans.
“I wrote too many stories, so I actually had to delete about a third of the text of the original manuscript,” Way said. “And everything that I deleted was stories that I wrote about patients of mine who are World War II veterans. So I had this whole section of the book devoted to World War II veterans. I cut that out because those stories were very long and very detailed and had many pictures in them.”
The section on World War II veterans will be the genesis of Way’s third book, the second for Indian Lake Press. It is expected to be published within a couple of years.
Way was born and raised in Glens Falls, and he lives in Glens Falls and Indian Lake. Surrounded by a family of artists, he’s always had a need to create things.
“Part of me always wanted to do something artistic and creative,” Way said. “I just needed to have some tangible thing that I could look at and show people that represented my work. So this is a way for me to combine my hobby of photography and my day job of being a physician.”
“Never a Dull Moment” was geared toward new physicians, medical students and residents who are either embarking on or considering a career in primary care medicine in a rural setting such as the Adirondacks.
“It’s a field that needs all the glorification it can get because it’s very hard to find people who are willing to go into rural primary care medicine,” Way said. “To me it’s a lifestyle that I can highly recommend, as long as you’re willing to work hard and get used to the new technological aspects of it that are something that most people have to deal with no matter what field they go into.”
Of all the patients he’s written about, one stands out above the rest: Darlene Stowell, of North Creek, who has suffered from chronic pain syndrome since childhood.
“It’s a story about how to take care of somebody who has a disease you can’t cure, but you can still help them anyway,” Way said. “What she has to go through and why ... Anybody who knows her story would probably complain a lot less about their own lives if they knew what hers was like.”
Over the years, Way’s writing has brought him closer to his patients. It even makes him like his work more.
“It reminds me that taking care of patients is an honor and a privilege and it still is a very human-based process and it’s important not to let the digitalized, technological aspects of the job overwhelm the humanity that still is the basis for the doctor-patient relationship,” Way said.
And yes, for this country doctor, the writing and photography are good medicine. They keep him from burning out and help him celebrate the intimacy and humanity of that unique relationship between the primary care physician and his patient.
“That’s what made us go into the field in the first place,” Way said.
The Southern Adirondack Independent Living Center’s Harvest Gala will be held Saturday, Oct. 19 at the Saratoga Holiday Inn. Tickets are $75 in advance/$100 at the door. Call 792-3537. Learn more about his writing and photography on his website at www.danielway.com.