Hometown Born in Fresno, California; grew up in Bakersfield
Family Wife, Karine (who was born in France); two teenage sons
Hobbies Cycling, travel and art
On Nightstand The Martian by Andy Weir and 33 Artists in 3 Acts by Sarah Thornton
Why did you become a doctor?
Although I enjoyed athletics, I was also a nerdy science kid growing up. I was inquisitive and spent a lot of time playing with chemistry and biology kits. I went to the University of San Diego to major in marine biology, but realized I like people more than whales so I changed to pre-med.
Why did you choose this particular specialty?
During my residency in 1988, a British nurse who ran a local hospice gave a lecture. I paid special notice to what
she said because I was seeing lots of trauma and death at the hospital. A year later, when I “hung a shingle on the door” and opened my medical practice, that hospice nurse showed up and asked if I would be the medical director for her hospice.
This was a volunteer position on top of my busy family practice. I can clearly remember on a few occasions delivering a baby in the morning and being with a dying patient in the evening. I thought, as a family physician, it was important for me to know about hospice so that I could serve my patients through every phase of their life. I deny death as much as anyone, but it’s important for physicians to involve ourselves in all aspects of our patients’ care.
What is the biggest misconception about your field?
That hospice and palliative care is “soft science” and not evidence- based. There is as much research about the
benefits of hospice and palliative care as there is about other highly technical fields of medicine.
What is your opinion of managed care and how will this affect you and your practice?
I’ve been a hospice and palliative care physician for 26 years. Hospice was formally introduced in the United States as a managed care model so I’m used to it. I think it is good that the managed care model is being used by other healthcare specialties , particularly because of outcome measurement s and accountability.
What is your motto?
I like to plagiarize the Carpe Diem motto. I see people who have seized the day in their life have peaceful deaths,
and some who have not who have a difficult death.
If you weren’t a doctor, what would you be?
I would be a full-time artist, living in Southern France with my wife, helping her with our small French Bistro restaurant.
Who are your heroes in healthcare ?
Hospice nurse s and clinicians. I may get a phone call at 2 a.m. while I’m home in bed, but they are out in the snow in the middle of the night or whenever needed going to a patient’s home to care for them.