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"The Way We Play": Med student turned children's author publishes book about neurodiversity

Med student’s career takes unexpected turn
Med student’s career takes unexpected turn 02:15

MINNEAPOLIS -- From the time he was young, Hugh Burke, an Eden Prairie native, knew what he wanted to do with his life.

"I have always leaned toward science," Burke said. "Science and Spanish have always been my two interests really."

After Notre Dame and years of service, he got his white coat at the University of Minnesota Medical School.  He also got a beloved mentor--a cardiologist with some heartfelt advice.

Dr. Woubeshet Ayenew works at Hennepin Healthcare and is on staff at the University of Minnesota Medical School.  He says to his students, "Outside of this we want you to do something different that will help you enrich empathy."

Hugh Burke teamed up with Kylie Donohue to create "The Way We Play." CBS Minnesota

Hugh wants to one day be a pediatric psychiatrist. But before he becomes a doctor, he's become an author, "I mean, I've never done it before, but I thought I could."

He came across the Fisch Arts Award which funds students' creative projects. He teamed up with a writing partner--and as if he didn't have enough to do, he got to work. 

And in just 9 months he published "The Way We Play." It's about neurodiversity, told through animals on a playground, one line reads, "We are different and special in what we can do, and from each of our friends we learn something new."

Dr. Ayenew says he endorses the book and it's a medium he understands. He's been working on kid's books for years too and plans to translate this one into East African languages.  

He says the way to prevent burnout is to shine light, "For him to say let's go for this, and it came to fruition, I was very excited for him."

Hugh is excited, too, "When you can do a project like this and sort of highlight the inherent power of children, that you can show children can do really complex things--that's something I am looking forward to in my job."

Hugh and Dr. Ayenew are hoping to get the book into local hospital libraries.

"The Way We Play" is available for purchase on Barnes and Noble's website.

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