University of Vermont

Stephen Russell Payne

Stephen Russell Payne
(Photo by Natalie Stultz)

For the last three decades, Stephen Russell Payne, M.D., has experienced daily life from the vantage point of a surgeon and clinical assistant professor at the University of Vermont College of Medicine: examining and counseling patients, teaching medical students, and using the surgeon’s art to help repair and renew. Now Payne’s other passion — writing about the human condition — which he has long pursued in pieces published in various New England literary journals, is on view in longer and more complex form in his first novel, Cliff Walking, published by Cedar Ledge Publishing.

Payne describes his novel, which portrays the mixture of loss and love that ties together the lives of three desperate people on the Maine coast, as a fictionalization of some of his own observations of the difficult topics of abuse and drug and alcohol addiction. Payne sees Cliff Walking as a love story, one that shows “that the healing power of hope can grow out of feelings of desperation.”

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Lifelong writer

Writing and the practice of medicine have been intertwined in Payne’s life for years. A lifelong writer, he has published fiction, non-fiction and poetry in a number of publications including Vermont Life magazine, the Tufts Review, the Vermont Literary Review, Livin’ the Vermont Way magazine and Route 7- Vermont Literary Journal.

A fourth-generation Vermonter from the Northeast Kingdom, Payne studied premed and English at Tufts University, and received his Masters in English from Tufts before earning his medical degree from the UVM College of Medicine in 1983. After finishing his surgical training he went into practice at Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans, Vermont. Payne has been a member of the faculty of the Department of Surgery since 1988. Over the years, he has studied with and/or been mentored by poets X. J. Kennedy, Galway Kinnell, and the late Denise Levertov, as well as with novelists Howard Frank Mosher, Jennifer Finney Boylan and Chris Bohjalian.