“In medicine you cannot fail because of ignorance”

Doctor and writer, throughout his life he has combined both aspects. As a researcher, in the 70s of the last century he began to study diabetes at the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona. As a playwright, he won the Joan Santamaria award for his first published play, The little story of an ordinary man. Since then, the achievements and awards have only added up. Ramon Gomis i de Barbarà, from Reus (1946) is an eminence in the field of health. He is dean of medicine at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) and emeritus researcher at the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS). As a writer, he is a recognized playwright who has also touched all genres. Gomis just posted Other portraits, more or less impertinent, the second compilation of these short personal stories, from Reus Reading Center Editions. Illustrious son of the city, this coming Tuesday the Reading Center will make him an honorary member, a recognition within the reach of a few.

Anton Chekhov said a phrase that you don't like. The 'medicine is my wife and literature, my lover'...

Chekhov was a great doctor and also a good writer. Others, like Céline or Baroja. Céline wrote the novels while doing the consultation, between visits. Apparently, they are different disciplines, but there are many points of parallelism. I mean, what is literature? What is theater? Find another landscape, another situation. And the medicine? Understand people, listen to them. A writer who does not listen is not a writer either.

When he started as a nutritionist, there was no such panorama of obesity...

No. At that time we were not worried about obesity. I entered medicine a lot because of diabetes. Partly because he had heard at home that someone close to him had died of the disease. It was 1970 and a bit by chance a scholarship came from the Barcelona City Council for a young man who wanted to dedicate himself to diabetes. This has been my thread because I also realized that in medicine you have to do well. I mean, you can't fail out of ignorance. You can fail because knowledge is not enough, but you must give the best of what you know at that moment. There can be no one who suffers from your lack of knowledge. So, I came to the conclusion that taking a specific course would make me feel very safe and I would be able to give my best.

At what stage is the diabetes?

That of the children must be cured. There must come a time when it is a disease that can be prevented. And it is advancing as with cancer. Sometimes diseases go from acute to chronic and this is the first step in healing. This is the way.

And type 2?

It is linked to obesity. It is a lifestyle, in which aging also plays a role. The final phase of life is very much the chronification of certain diseases. If one day we are able to control them, prevent them, death will come from aging because the cells die. In life, there is a certain moment when people should be able to decide that this is the end point. I speak of assisted death because there are people who have a series of chronic conditions with no way out, who have poor quality of life, suffer, have pain or lose consciousness. What does it mean to live? I live now, but the day I can't hear, can't see, can't talk to you... And this is a more ethical and philosophical question.

Now what to do?

You get to help die in the late stages. There are cracks, but it is an issue that does not depend on doctors, but on society, which must be mature and also to separate religious convictions. The religious decision is very individual and should not contaminate the global.

To be a scientist, must one dispense with religious faith?

At the time you are a scientist, the only thing you have to believe in is the results of the experiment.

“I cannot understand that a child or an elderly person, who can be cured, is not cured so that they do not have access to good medicine”

He is a very socially conscious person. How do you see Public Health?

A country like ours must commit to public health, public education and a public culture, apart from the fact that everything can be competitive. I always say that it is very good that we all hold major parties in each neighborhood, but sometimes it might be worth not having so many and dedicating more time to having good teaching or good healthcare. It is true that this is worth money and that it must be careful, it must be prioritized. I cannot understand that a child or an elderly person, who can be cured, and is not cured so that they do not have access to good medicine. This is brutality, this is bloodthirsty. During Covid an elderly person could not go to the hospital and had to stay isolated. But in what world do we live? Shouldn't this be prioritised? Why are we not brave enough to do it? This is my vision.

If we go back to Chekhov and talk about literature, how did it start?

I entered the theater in Reus, almost before medicine. In fact, I hesitated throughout the race. I liked the theater because of what it had as a collective. So, a group of friends started with Tartana, we were very ambitious, we wanted to do things well and very nice people came out of that group, like Lluís Pasqual.

Was he a playwright or did he also act?

He acted and also acted as a director. But I came to the conclusion that it couldn't be, and even more so with the career he was studying. So, I thought that I could write because I had a certain ability and I sent a play to the Joan Santamaria award, chaired by Núria Espert. It was The little story of an ordinary man, that won. The next day he was scared, but it was a very nice way to start. Ricard Salvat wanted to do it at the Teatre Nacional, but the censorship ruined it.

What was he talking about?

At that time I was doing social theater, I was very influenced by German theater. He wanted to make a collective theatre, that would go out to the town. However, later I dedicated myself more and more to medicine.

Does the relationship with the Ferrater brothers come from that moment?

No. It was very late. When we did theater here, in Reus, we had read Ferrater, we were very impressed In Memory and in some pieces we introduced some of his poems. We set up some prizes with the aim of bringing good people to Reus, we wanted to bring Gabriel Ferrater. I went to Sant Cugat to bring him the texts and he saw himself together with other members of the group, but he didn't come on the day of the awards. Finally, we didn't see each other anymore and when he died I started working on his biography. Meanwhile, I did an interview with his brother, Joan, through Xavier Amorós, who we considered our mentor. I interviewed friends, I went to France to look for documents and archives. I spent 17 years working on this topic.

God gives you.

I wanted to make a good biography. And with all this, one day Joan Ferrater came to see me at the Clinic where I worked as a diabetes specialist and where he had my mother admitted to the ICU. The reality is that Juan, talking a bit, told me that he was going back to Canada and if I could take care of his mother, because his sister was in England.

Really? And what did he say?

Although I did not do private, I went to see her and from then on, every certain time I checked her sugar and we chatted. She was a lovely woman, very funny and personally, I never used our conversations for my biography. Sometimes I think maybe I was too careful not to ask, but I didn't want to mix it up.

And Juan?

I've never seen him.

He got to know Montserrat Roig, Benet i Jornet and Terenci Moix up close.

Although he studied medicine, he went to classes at the Institut d'Estudis Catalans, with Joaquim Molas. He even did theater with Montserrat Roig. We did a work for the union, Dying to close your eyes, by Max Aub, but, above all, what we did was meet. We had a good relationship with Montserrat Roig and, especially, with Papitu Benet. We even kept him hidden at home for a while because the police were looking for him.

Francoist?

Yes. And I knew Terenci Moix in a different way, because he was very close to Papitu. Terenci had lunch every day in a bar near the Clinic and when he could, he would escape with them. At that time he lived with Enric Majó and he had what we didn't have, which was a video machine. So, we went up to see movies, because Terenci was very mythomaniac. I had a good relationship with Terenci, we appreciated each other, but his great friend was Papitu.

«Passion has weighed me down more times than vanity. In the end you move through elements that are still the human classics»

When you read drama, what do you read?

Now I read less theater, I see theater. There was a time when she read a lot. I was interested in German realistic theater and also Chekhov because of this similarity, because of the poetic question. Also some more modern ones, although, above all, the Catalan classics. I joined the Teatre Lliure, where I ended up being president of the Board of Trustees when Lluís Pasqual was director.

But you don't just write plays. How cheeky are these portraits you just published?

I have always liked to grow various things, try challenges. I have written about travel and I have done biography. Through medicine I have met many people and I had a good relationship with Català Roca, with whom I spoke about the value of the portrait. And I thought of doing literary portraits, some of which I published in a magazine. So, Pere Anguera suggested I collect them, but I still had a few left over, portraits that mean nothing more than my point of view.

Has this point of view of yours upset anyone?

Have you ever seen someone not reflected.

"At the moment you are working as a scientist, the only thing you have to believe in is the results of the experiment"

Are they all from Reus?

There are also outside. Einstein, for example, who was visiting Espluga de Francolí.

And how did Einstein end up there?

This is the same thing I said. In Espluga I found a large photograph of him with some children on the street. I found out that Einstein came to Barcelona to give a lecture at the university and once in Catalonia, he asked to visit the Poblet monastery. But on the way they had lunch at Espluga de Francolí, where they arrived by car, at a time when there were not so many, so the children came over and when Einstein left the inn they went to take the photo. But that portrait is not Einstein, but the impact that photograph had on me.

You have been able to combine the two disciplines all your life. Even now, young people are made to choose between science and letters.

At times I have doubted whether complete dedication would not have been better for doing good science. And the same with literature. It is true that dispersion is not a good tool, but in the end you always move through elements that are still classic human. The vanity...

The passion...

Sometimes the money. Passion has weighed me down more times than vanity. But you also want to be a good person. There are other values ​​that you do not want to lose and that are also worth taking care of, such as family, social relationships or simply the pleasure of reading to others. All of this is complex. I must say that I have had the privilege of doing what I liked. I have never had the feeling of going to work and that is something extraordinary.

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