Award-winning writer Charlie Graeber ’87 visited Westminster Feb. 18 to discuss his most recent book, “The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer,” which was released a year ago and was shortlisted as the 2019 Medical Book of the Year by the British Medical Association. He is also The New York Times bestselling author of “The Good Nurse,” which is about the most prolific serial killer in history.
Students in AP Biology, Biology Honors and some other science courses, as well as numerous faculty members, attended Charlie’s talk. He began his presentation by sharing how he got involved in journalism and writing long-form narrative nonfiction after starting out as a poet.
He spoke about what prompted his interest in writing about immunotherapy and cancer and how he conducted research for the book, which took him five years to write. “I didn’t have a specific interest in cancer and tend to write about what is interesting,” he said. “A large part of my job is finding experts who know a lot. I wanted there to be a story.”
Charlie traced the early history of using the immune system, which was not understood, to try to fight cancer up to the present, where much progress has been made. “We have gone from the world is flat to the world is round in biology,” he explained. He told the students if they are interested in science, it is a great time to be in it. “The door is wide-open.” He shared how there is a lack of awareness of recent advancements in immunotherapy. “The reason this is important is because people don’t know about it,” he said. “It is moving so quickly.” He has been speaking around the country on the topic for the past year.
Charlie is a contributor to The New Yorker, New York Magazine, GQ, Outside, Bloomberg Businessweek, The New York Times, National Geographic Adventure, American Cowboy, Vogue, Men’s Journal and more, as well as online publications such as The Daily Beast, Salon, Wired online and The New York Times online. He has appeared as a guest on “60 Minutes,” “Fresh Air,” “CBS this Morning,” “The Joy Behar Show,” PBS, Bloomberg, Al Jezeera and other media outlets. His work has been honored with An Overseas Press Club award for Outstanding International Journalism, a 2012 New York Press Club prize, an American Poet’s Prize (2nd), a National Magazine Award and several National Magazine Award nominations for feature writing. His long-form narrative nonfiction has been anthologized in numerous collections, and he is executive producer of an eight-part Netflix documentary series.
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