There is magic in love, power in truth, and fulfillment in joy.
In 1997, I began my medical training at the University of Colorado. Perhaps because I was only 20, I was very sure of myself and my ability to change the world. I knew what field I was going into (psychiatry), what research I would be doing (neuroimaging), and what my contributions would be to the world of science (understanding human behavior and volition). As it turns out, I really had no idea what I would be doing 20 years later, or even who I would be. But I never lost that feeling that I could help make the world a better place.
Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans. In medical school I ended up falling in love with neurology. In residency, I noticed that my training placed more emphasis on treating diseases than caring for people. As an assistant professor, I began struggling in earnest with how to address the suffering I saw in people living with neurologic illnesses and their families. Most recently I’ve started exploring opportunities to encourage joy in persons living with serious illness and to mobilize patients and families as key members of the healthcare team (for more see Positive Medicine and Democratizing Health).
Along the way I practiced medicine, powerlifting, professional wrestling, heavy metal guitar, punk rock singing (screaming), research, kung fu, backpacking, zen meditation, writing, comedy improv and standup bass. I fell in love, got married and got divorced. A few times (actually, three – I’m now married). I learned to trust my intuition, live my values, to bring spirituality into my life in an authentic way. In 2020 I started a new job at the University of Rochester (New York) as the founding director of a new palliative care research center and neuropalliative care division (for more see Neuropalliative Care). I also finally learned that if I want to be a writer I’ve got to make time everyday to write and have just completed a proposal for my first solo-authored book (Dangerous and Expensive Bullshit – an antidote to the current pandemic of misinformation).
We all have the ability and the responsibility to make the world a better place. Unlike my 20-year old self, I am excited to not know how I’ll be doing this five, 10 or even 20 years from now. I expect it will involve some new friends, happy accidents and unexpected problems that force me to grow. I hope you too will be inspired to do something new from what you find here today.