James A. Tulsky, MD FACP FAAHPM
Chair, Department of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, MA
Who has most influenced your work and what impact has he or she had?
I am deeply indebted to many amazing teachers from whom I’ve learned over the years, and if I try listing them all I’ll leave someone out. At each step of my training brilliant and caring individuals have served as my role models, content experts, career mentors, or some combination of all three. But, if I have to name one person who has had the greatest influence on my work, it would actually be a peer. Bob Arnold and I first met 24 years ago and almost immediately started working together. Bob is a highly creative and out-of-the-box thinker, and is also the best teacher I know. Whether struggling with a research question or figuring out how to run a program, he always opens up paths I had not considered and helps me to see things from a different perspective. Bob has also taught me to integrate knowledge from other fields, such as business or elementary education, into the work we do in palliative care and communication.
What does it mean to you to be named a Visionary in Hospice and Palliative Medicine?
This award reflects an endorsement by our community, and that means the world to me. I adore and respect my palliative care colleagues, and for them to acknowledge me in this way is tremendously gratifying.
What is your vision for the future of Hospice and Palliative Medicine?
We are living at a truly auspicious moment for our field, and our challenge is to take full advantage of this moment. Our work right now is about much more than palliative medicine specifically or the care of the seriously ill more generally. It is about the soul of medicine and the culture of healthcare and how we are going to help shape it. Our field embodies much of why many people entered health care to start with – empathy, relationships, and the desire to make a difference in people’s lives. I see others looking to us to lead the way toward more caring and rational health systems. If we can imbue all of health care with elements of the culture that makes palliative care so special, then we will have gone a long way toward improving the lives of everyone who ever faces disease.
James A. Tulsky, MD FACP FAAHPM is one of 30 individuals who have been named a Visionary in Hospice and Palliative Medicine by AAHPM for their 30th Anniversary in 2018. Learn more about the Visionary recognition and view a list of all current and past Visionaries.