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A Piece of My Mind
November 14, 2017

The Greatest Gift: How a Patient’s Death Taught Me to Be a Physician

Author Affiliations
  • 1Internal Medicine, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
JAMA. 2017;318(18):1761-1762. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.15158

The package was in plain brown paper wrapping. The note enclosed read, “Thanks for everything you did for my father. It meant more than you can ever imagine.” I teared up, remembering the day I helped the father of a colleague die peacefully. When I opened the wrapping and saw the picture of two saplings planted side by side and a certificate saying that the family planted one in my honor next to the one in their father’s, the single tear turned to a river. Although I never thought that a patient’s death would be one of the best clinical experiences of my then young career, that day increased my love for practicing medicine significantly.