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Deadline Doctor: Kristine Vissage Scruggs ’03

The year is 2030. The government has seized complete control of the health care system. And treatment has become dehumanized for the sake of efficiency.

Kristi Scruggs

One troubled reporter  uncovers a dangerous conspiracy beneath it all, embarking on a shocking and equally chilling search for the truth.

Welcome to the world of Kristine Scruggs’s What They Don’t Know. Scruggs successfully published the medical thriller (her first book) in June 2017, which she wrote amidst her full-time job as a hospitalist and now outpatient doctor in Raleigh, N.C. — not to mention the births of her two sons, Henry and Jack.

Despite having her hands full with a growing family and demanding career, Scruggs was inspired by her experience in the medical field, and she made writing a book a top priority. She became especially determined after reading the memoir When Breath Becomes Air by neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi, an intimate reflection penned in his last years fighting stage IV lung cancer.

“It was the motivation I needed,” Scruggs said. “You know, a lot of people talk about writing a book, but not a lot of people actually write a book and publish it. You’re not promised tomorrow, so I figured I needed to make this happen while I could.”

As a doctor, author, mother and wife, things can seem overwhelming at times for Scruggs. But her understanding of balancing work, family and creativity has a healthy dose of confidence and realistic expectation: “Everywhere I look, someone is doing a better job than me at something. But I try to remind myself that no one’s doing life exactly how I am. No one’s doing ‘me’ better.”

For now, Scruggs is focusing on her outpatient work, often visiting and treating elderly patients in their homes, a far cry from the futuristic and machine-like treatments What They Don’t Know imagines. “We do most of our care in the homes,” she says. “It’s really great because it’s mostly elderly folks who can’t get out — they’re very appreciative, and their families are very appreciative.”

While her personal and professional life is keeping her busy, Scruggs is excited about the future for her writing: “People come to me now asking, ‘Oh, it was such a good book! Do you have a sequel you’re writing?’ So, that’s definitely very validating.”

My Clemson: Rupal Shah M ’07

Shah moved to Haiti in 2017 for a short-term position with Partners in Health. Now, she’s living and working in Haiti long term — and is gearing up for her 11th marathon in her seventh continent: Australia.Rupal Shah Running

Q: YOU GOT YOUR MASTER’S IN MICROBIOLOGY AT CLEMSON IN 2007. WHAT CAREER STEPS DID YOU TAKE AFTER GRADUATING?

A | After I finished my master’s at Clemson, I went to Harvard University and worked at the school of public health for about five years as a research associate and lab manager for the department of immunology and infectious diseases. After that, I went back to school to Boston University to get my master’s in public health, then I worked as a quality improvement specialist for Boston Children’s Hospital, where I was working closely with pediatric practices with a focus on quality improvement. And then I got my job with Partners in Health.

Q | YOUR PARTNERS IN HEALTH POSITION SENT YOU TO HÔPITAL UNIVERSITAIRE DE MIREBALAIS IN HAITI. WHAT WERE YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES THERE?

A | I was hired as a tuberculosis lab consultant and quality improvement consultant. I had two big jobs. One was to set up the tuberculosis lab, which was a biosafety level 3 (BSL3) lab. I was there to help set up the equipment and the protocols; to ensure that the operational tasks in the BSL2 and the BSL3 were up to date; to make sure that operational management was in place; to help with fine-tuning standard operating procedures; and to help recruit, hire and short list candidates for interviews to work in the BSL2 and BSL3 labs. I was also working with the clinical staff, identifying issues with sample preparation, testing and patient care.

Q | WHAT ABOUT YOUR NEW, LONG-TERM POSITION IN HAITI?

A | My new job is at St. Boniface Hospital in a town called Fond-des-Blancs. I’m a grant manager, so I work closely with the monitoring and evaluation team and the clinicians to make sure we’re meeting grant deliverables and that the needs on the ground are met so we can seek donations and funding accordingly.

Q | SWITCHING GEARS: YOU’VE BEEN RUNNING MARATHONS ALL OVER THE WORLD, AND YOU RECENTLY FINISHED YOUR 10TH MARATHON IN ANTARCTICA. HOW DID YOU GET STARTED RUNNING LONG DISTANCE?Rupal Shah Antarctica

A | I ran my first marathon in 2008 because of TeamAIDAsha, a nonprofit organization that raises money for developmental projects in India for issues such as social justice, children’s education, women’s empowerment and health care. I actually started volunteering with AID in Clemson; I was president of that chapter for a year. Their biggest fundraiser in Boston is hosting a marathon training program, so I trained with the team and ran my first marathon in Chicago in October 2008. Soon after, I learned about the Abbott World Marathon Majors, which comprises the largest, most renowned marathons in the world: Chicago, New York, Boston, Berlin, Tokyo and London. Since I ran the Chicago marathon, I thought, “Well, I should probably do the others.” I actually ran Boston twice because I ran it first during the bombing in 2013 and wasn’t able to complete the race. I ran it again the following year. Once I finished the World Marathon Majors, I was like, “Well, I guess the next thing would be to run a marathon in each continent.” My last continent is going to be in Australia on September 15, 2019. By the time I finish my Australia marathon, I will have finished 11 marathons in 11 years.

Q | HOW DID IT FEEL TO CROSS THE FINISH LINE IN ANTARCTICA?

A | It feels amazing. I feel on top of the world. There’s nothing I can’t do now. Really, when people say, “Oh, I couldn’t call them because I didn’t have time” or, “Oh, I didn’t get a chance to finish this” — there’s just no “I can’t” anymore. I feel like anything that you want to do, literally anything, is possible. I honestly believe that.