Dr. Sunita Puri: Life and Medicine in the Eleventh Hour
Growing up as an American-born daughter of immigrant parents, Dr. Sunita Puri always tried to live up to her parents’ expectations and the examples they set. While completing medical school at UCSF, a troubling issue seemed to arise. Between her mother’s experiences as an anesthesiologist and her own conversations with her family about their faith, the disconnect between the traditional medical objective of lengthening life at any cost and her family’s spiritual teachings became more and more apparent. It was this tension that ultimately drew her to palliative medicine, a practice that aims not to simply extend life, but to improve its quality, especially in patients living with fatal illnesses.
In her new book, Dr. Puri recounts the most instructive—and often heart-wrenching—stories she has experienced in this line of medicine, intertwining them with the childhood memories of her family that have shaped who she is today. The lessons are not black and white but nuanced in ways that medicine often isn’t. When the only remaining treatment options have the possibility to extend life, but come with severe side effects, how does a physician have an honest conversation with the patient and their family about the "pros" and "cons" of their choices? In a field where physicians come face to face with mortality daily, there can be a surprising lack of fluency in discussing the hard truths of death.
Through her years of experience in the field of palliative medicine, Dr. Puri has strived to change this by normalizing conversations about what kind of life matters most to patients at the end of their days. She is also a living testament to the power of storytelling, and how it can help us make better sense of our own mortality.
Join us for an emotionally honest discussion on what kinds of life are worth living, and how even in the hardest and most difficult moments, these decisions can help bring peace to patients and their families.
Dr. Sunita Puri
Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine, University of Southern California; Medical Director of Palliative Medicine, Keck Hospital and Norris Cancer Center; Author, The Good Night: Life and Medicine in the Eleventh Hour
In Conversation with Dr. Lucy Kalanithi
Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine; Widow of Dr. Paul Kalanithi; Author, When Breath Becomes Air