What inspired you to become a healthcare provider?
I was drawn to the field of medicine because of role models at an early age, a chance to serve others, the opportunity to merge the practice of science with delivery of patient care, a view of myself as a life-long learner, and a sense that medicine selects individuals who see themselves in this vein--and have a need for continuous learning throughout life. This learning happens passively (through reading, taking courses) and actively (through patient care). For me one of the true joys of practicing medicine is the learning that occurs through the care of patients (experiential learning), particularly the stories shared by them about their health, their worries, joys, regrets, and accomplishments.
Why did you focus on pain management?
In the field I work in, geriatric medicine, pain care is suboptimal. Physicians receive little training in pain assessment and management in general. There are many barriers that complicate the management of later-life pain, including older adults’ beliefs and attitudes about pain, and physicians’ worries about causing harm with treatment. Clearly, we need to do a better job in both assessing and treating pain in older adults. I am gratified that since I began my career as a physician researcher focused on pain care in older adults nearly 2 decades ago, a whole new generation of younger researchers has emerged to address important questions in this field.
Who were your mentors?
I have been fortunate to have many mentors along the way, some professional and some personal. The most inspirational by far was Alvan Feinstein, a Yale-based physician researcher considered by many to be the father of modern clinical epidemiology. Alvan demanded much of his mentees, but was incredibly giving of his time and profoundly supportive of my continued growth and development. I learned a lot about what it means to be a good mentor from Alvan.
If you weren't a healthcare provider, what would you be?
A musician, language translator, and/or art dealer, which are more right-brained functions than what is typically required in the work I currently do. When I win the lottery, I fully intend to pursue all three on a full-time basis!
What is your most marked characteristic?
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I would say serving as a mentor to trainees at various levels--medical students, residents, fellows, and junior faculty--which is work I find incredibly gratifying. It is one of the many reasons I look forward to getting to work each day.
What is your favorite language?
Romance languages by far, with French and Italian being the most pleasing to my ear.
If you had to choose one book, one film, and one piece of music to take into space for an undetermined amount of time, what would they be?
Incredibly tough choices: I would select Zorba the Greek, a book written by one of my all time favorite writers, Nikos Kazantzakis. It is very much a call to all of us to live life to the fullest while we can. The characters in this novel are indelibly etched into my brain, while his descriptions of the Crete landscape and sea are breathtaking. For music, it would have to be Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. I learn something new every time I listen to this incredible piece of jazz. Selecting one piece of art s incredibly tough, but if I had to choose it would be van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Crows. Every time I see it, I am filled with joy and reminded of the extreme beauty and ‘aliveness’ of life.
What would you like your legacy to be?
I would like to be remembered as someone who made a difference in the lives of my family, patients, and trainees. I would also like to be viewed as someone whose research led to decreased suffering and improvement on the part of older adults with pain.
What is your motto?