SWAMPSCOTT, Mass. - Novelist Dr. Michael Palmer, who helped popularize the genre of medical thrillers, died unexpectedly Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, in New York. He was 71.
Dr. Palmer, who grew up in Springfield, Mass., was returning home to Boston from an African safari when he collapsed. He was taken by ambulance to Jamaica Hospital in Queens where he later died. Dr. Palmer's debut book, The Sisterhood, sold millions of copies world-wide and is still in print today, an impressive feat for someone who has said he never wanted to be a writer but always believed he had some sort of creative streak hidden inside him. Following that commercial and critical success, Dr. Palmer went on to write 19 more New York Times bestselling novels that have been translated in 35 foreign countries. His fourth novel, Extreme Measures, was made into a movie in 1996 staring Hugh Grant, Gene Hackman and Sarah Jessica Parker.
Dr. Palmer served as a clinical instructor in medicine at Tufts University and was on the faculties of Harvard Medical School and the University of Cincinnati School of Medicine. He graduated from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., and received his M.D. degree with honors from Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Palmer has said he opted to attend Case Western Reserve, largely because they had developed a curriculum that centered on producing caring, involved physicians. A focus on caring became the hallmark of Dr. Palmer's illustrious medical career and at the time of his death he was an associate director emeritus of Physician Health Services, helping doctors suffering from physical illness, mental illness or substance abuse challenges put their personal and professional lives back together. A passionate advocate for addiction medicine, Dr. Palmer has spoken openly about his own recovery from drug and alcohol abuse.
Palmer's talents and passions extended beyond the fields of medicine and writing. He was a Life Master bridge player and adventurous traveler in addition to being an accomplished musician. But if asked, Palmer would say his greatest accomplishment was his family to whom he was extremely devoted. Dr. Palmer was the beloved companion of Robin Broady of Swampscott, Mass. Devoted father of Matthew Palmer and his wife, Dr. Danica Palmer, of Arlington, Va.; Daniel Palmer and his wife, Jessica Bladd Palmer, of Hollis and Luke Palmer of Brooklyn, N.Y. Loving brother of Donna Palmer Prince of Newton, Mass. and Susan Palmer Terry of Concord; cherished grandfather of Nicholas, Benjamin, Zoe and Sophie Palmer.
Over the years, Palmer had said he received a great deal of advice about writing from his parents, friends, agent, editors, and the other writers who he had crossed paths with along the way. His outlook on both work and life ultimately came down to four principles. You can only do what you can do. Live one day at a time. Never go around comparing your insides to everyone else's outsides. Being a good person supersedes everything else.
A memorial service has been planned for Sunday, Nov. 3, at 2 p.m. at the Stanetsky-Hymanson Memorial Chapel, 10 Vinnin St., Salem, Mass.
Webcasting of the Memorial Service can be found at webcast.dignitymemorial.com/events/login/4820 using the password EDS5Y.
Memorial observance will be held at his late residence following services.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to an organization that was very near and dear to his heart, Asperger's Association of New England, 51 Water St., #206, Watertown, MA 02472.
Published in The Concord Monitor on Nov. 2, 2013