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When Physician Becomes Patient

From the June 2017 ACP Hospitalist

Lucy Kalanithi, MD, FACP, discusses “When Breath Becomes Air.”

Many physicians and patients have learned from the life and death of Paul Kalanithi, MD. His memoir, “When Breath Becomes Air,” describes the experience of being diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer during his neurosurgical residency, and it has been a New York Times bestseller since its posthumous publication in January 2016.

ACP Hospitalist provides news and information about hospital medicine, covering the latest trends and issues in the field.

His widow, Lucy Kalanithi, MD, FACP, shared some of the lessons she herself took from his illness and death during an Internal Medicine Meeting 2017 session titled “In the Patient's Voice: Finding Inspiration in Patient Partnership.” Dr. Kalanithi is a clinical assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., and author of the epilogue to her husband's book.

She was asked by Steven Weinberger, MD, MACP, ACP's CEO emeritus, for take-home lessons for other physicians on a number of topics.

“In some ways, Paul and I both changed as physicians as a result and in some ways we didn't,” she said. Both were already interested in end-of-life care, particularly the moral distress it can cause physicians. “We had had a lot of conversations about that as we were residents. I had even thought about becoming a palliative care physician, so when he got sick, one of my first thoughts was I'm so glad we already have a language to talk about this.”

She reported how her husband applied lessons from his illness when his initial cancer treatment made him healthy enough to return to practice as chief neurosurgical resident.

Read the full article in ACP Hospitalist.

ACP Hospitalist provides news and information about hospital medicine, covering the latest trends and issues in the field.

Back to the July 2017 issue of ACP IMpact