After obtaining his medical degree from Madras Medical College, Dr. Abraham Verghese decides to re-locate to Johnson City, Tennessee. He eventually gets married to Rajani, who is an accomplished dancer, and has a boy, Steven. Since Abraham specializes in infectious diseases, he takes special interest in patients suffering from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome(AIDS), and presents his work at the local gay/lesbian hang-outs and clubs, creating a public awareness of AIDS. Soon he has as many as 82 patients in his care at the local hospital. He gets engrossed in his work to the extent that he starts neglecting his very heavily pregnant wife Rajani, who eventually gives birth to Jacob. She threatens him with marriage counseling, while fearing that her husband may acquire AIDS through contact with his patients, while he himself has to deal with hospital administration who are concerned about funds and resources being utilized on patients who may never recover.