Jerald Winakur, M.D. has practiced internal and geriatric medicine in San Antonio, Texas, for more than 30 years, and is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio’s Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics. He is also the author of Memory Lessons: A Doctor’s Story (Hyperion), a memoir-manifesto about his life as a geriatrician, commentary on aging and medical care in America, and the trials and joys of caring for his father with Alzheimer’s disease. A sought after keynote speaker, he has addressed both lay audiences and health care professionals on ethical caregiving of our senior citizens, and has taught and lectured at colleges on topics related to medical ethics. Some of the myriad places where he has spoken include University of Texas, Methodist Healthcare System, Trinity University, Meals on Wheels Association of America, American Medical Directors Association, and the Case Managers Society of America National Convention. His work has appeared in the Washington Post and in newspapers across the country, and he’s been interviewed on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show and Fresh Air, as well as other syndicated radio shows.
Winakur is also a Certified Medical Director for long-term care institutions and is credentialed by the American Medical Directors Association. He serves on the Ethics Committee of this organization and is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians. Winakur graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1973, and completed his residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA) in 1976.
Memory Lessons is an honest and courageous account of Winakur’s father’s last years, the life he slowly forgot, and what a family faces when dementia begins destroying memory after memory, ability after ability. Winakur traces not only the challenges this change forced on his father and his family, but also offers an informed and deeply penetrating look into the growing medical and social dilemma America faces as Baby Boomers age. The “oldest old” have now become the fastest-growing demographic in this country, and as Winakur discusses his own father’s care, he delineates the dizzying options, costs, and unexpected effects caring for this aging population will have on patients and families. Winakur captures the heartbreaking truths about aging and his reconciliation between his roles of doctor and son as he describes how his father moved towards death. Through his story and in talks, Winakur illustrates how we can best honor our elders and ourselves during those years as he discusses the crisis in geriatric care in America and the issue of ethical caregiving.
He and his wife, the lawyer-poet Lee Robinson, have co-taught their seminar, “Being Human: Contemporary Issues in Science, Medicine and Society,” to undergraduates at UTSA and Trinity University, and currently teach an ongoing “Literature and Medicine” class to medical students at UTHSCSA. They live in Comfort, Texas.
Praise for Memory Lessons:
“A beautifully written account by a physician son describing his father’s decline from Alzheimer’s, Memory Lessons is a wise and lasting treatise about sickness and health, life and death, and the redeeming power of love.”
—Abraham Verghese, author of My Own Country and The Tennis Partner
“Memory Lessons is a searing, heartbreaking, and beautifully written account of a physician’s battle against Alzheimer’s – among aging patients in general, but more personally as the disease slowly steals Dr. Winakur’s own father. Like all fine literature, this is finally a book about what it means to be human.”
“Jerald Winakur poignantly brings together his personal and professional lives in this healing work, a deeply humane and utterly forthright book of memories, lessons, and revelations.”
“Memory Lessons is a beautifully written and moving book that is both personal and universal.”
—Christine K. Cassel, M.D., president of the American Board of Internal Medicine
“In this affecting, thoughtfully composed memoir, Winakur remembers his father as he fully was… Probing and intelligent, Winakur’s work challenges readers to think hard and deeply about the choices they make in the care of their elders.”