07/03/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT
When staff writer Montgomery Brower set out to meet the twin daughters of Marlene and Peter Cady, he was understandably anxious. The subjects for this week's cover story (page 64), 5-year-olds Ruthie and Verena, were born joined at the chest, sharing the same heart. "Their mother wrote a remarkable account about raising these girls, but we still needed to supplement her contribution with an interview," explains Brower. "I anticipated a sad, upsetting, bleak situation and wondered if I would feel comfortable. But as soon as I walked into their living room, the girls said 'Hi,' and my feelings turned around 180 degrees. They just seemed like normal, outgoing kids—happy, funny and cute. Basically, I fell in love with them."
Brower, 30, also learned an important lesson about his second career. A PEOPLE writer since 1983, he has worked part-time for the past two years so that he could complete premed studies at Columbia University. He plans to enter medical school next year. "Like most people going into medicine," says Brower, "I have doubts about my capacity to deal with the sick and the handicapped. But I found out through the twins that it's those very people who can teach me the most about something every doctor needs—empathy."
The eldest of five children born to journalist Brock Brower, 57, and his wife, Ann, 56, a real estate agent, Monty decided early on a writing career. After graduating from Dartmouth with a B.A. in English in 1981, Brower won a Henry Luce Scholarship to go to Hong Kong, where he spent two years writing for Asiaweek. He then worked briefly at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner before joining PEOPLE.
In 1987, Brower, who had studied Russian in college, joined a small team of PEOPLE staffers who traveled to the Soviet Union to prepare a special issue of the magazine. In Leningrad, he was invited to observe open-heart surgery. "It was a vision of wonder," he says. "After that, I decided to become a doctor." Yet the twins, who cannot be surgically separated, have also reminded him that "medicine has its limits—and sometimes doctors must just accept life as it is."
Married last year to Emily DuHamel, 25, a director at Covenant House, a refuge for homeless and runaway kids in Manhattan and nationwide, Brower says his visit to the Cadys has made him more eager to have children. "I never thought of myself as being particularly good with kids," he says. "But all that changed with the twins. I learned something about the meaning of love."