When his younger sister, Victoria, died from leukemia, Dr. Joseph Stern stepped out of his white coat, becoming more than a physician. He was a patient’s loved one — his sister’s caretaker and advocate.
In this episode of Back Talk Doc, host Dr. Sanjiv Lakhia talks with Dr. Stern about how his experience with his sister led him to reexamine what it means to be a physician, which he chronicles for readers in his book Grief Connects Us: A Neurosurgeon’s Lessons on Love, Loss, and Compassion.
“I saw, as if for the first time: what it was like to be a patient and what it's like to be a patient's family member. It really had a tremendous impact on me personally in terms of my relationship with her and family, but also how I take care of patients and the whole notion of passion in medicine,” says Dr. Stern. “I realized that, in many ways, I had never really been as empathetic as I needed to be or as compassionate, and hadn't really understood what it was like to be a patient [going] through this kind of illness.”
Dr. Stern explains how physicians can become better doctors by practicing more patience, understanding, empathy, and compassion. He references multiple resources, in addition to his own book, so listeners can learn more about the power of connection between patient and physician.
Name: Joseph Stern, MD
What he does: Dr. Stern is a neurosurgeon, author, and inventor. He is a partner at Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates and practices neurosurgery at the Moses H. Cone Hospital.
Words of wisdom: “Have patience and the ability to listen — not being hurried — being present and listening and appreciating the [patient’s] experience is of vital importance. It makes you a better doctor, but it also takes your care to a whole different level in terms of the relationship you establish with a patient and family members.”
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