Amy Frieman, MD – Inspiring Hospice and Palliative Medicine Leaders Under 40

This post is from one of the Inspiring Hospice and Palliative Medicine Leaders Under 40. Amy Frieman, MD, was selected based on her involvement in AAHPM, educating others about hospice and palliative medicine, participation in charitable work, and mentoring of students or residents. The honoree was then asked who inspired her over the course of her career. We are sharing some of her answers in this post. Check back regularly for posts from other leaders.

Who has most influenced your work in hospice and palliative medicine and what impact has he or she had?
Dr. David Muller, Dean of Medical Education for the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, has most influenced my work, not only in hospice and palliative medicine, but as a physician. Dr. Muller was the Director of the Mount Sinai Visiting Doctors Program when I was a resident at Mount Sinai and later when I was an attending. I have had the amazing opportunity to call him both a mentor and a friend. Making house calls with Dr. Muller, I immediately understood that he was the type of physician that I would strive (and continue to strive) to become. He clearly recognized the person behind the list of medical diagnoses. He listened more than he spoke, and his presence in itself was a comfort to his patients and their families. As a resident, on one of my first home visits with Dr. Muller, I remember visiting a patient with dementia and spending the vast majority of the visit seated in the living room, speaking with the patient’s wife. Initially, I wondered where the patient was and when we would examine him. As Dr. Muller continued to provide support to the patient’s wife, I realized that this would be the most important part of the visit that day. This was the first time that I truly recognized that doctoring comes in many different forms. Dr. Muller also encouraged me to become involved with medical education and helped me to foster my interest in medical humanities.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In five years, I see myself continuing to expand palliative care services at Meridian Health. While palliative care has become an important part of the culture of our inpatient and post-acute care facilities, I want to continue to work to build upon our outpatient palliative care services. I plan for our home-based palliative care program to continue to expand. In addition, I envision our office-based palliative care practice extending to multiple locations. As Meridian continues to actively address health care reform, my goal is for palliative care to be firmly entrenched within our system’s population health management initiatives, our accountable care organization (ACO) and our clinically integrated network. As a patient advocate, my vision is that in five years, the delivery of palliative care at Meridian will be seamless, and that all patients who would benefit from palliative care will have access to these services no matter where they are in the care continuum. In addition to continuing my work at Meridian, I plan to become more active on the statewide level in New Jersey, advocating for increased use of palliative care and hospice services for our vulnerable patient population.

What is the best advice you have ever received?
The best advice that I have ever received is to “choose to be happy.” Growing up, this was a message that I frequently heard from my parents. I believe it is even more pertinent to me as an adult, particularly now as a hospice and palliative medicine physician. Being surrounded by patients with serious and often terminal illness, I have tried to embrace this advice. I make a conscious effort to recognize all of the gifts that I have in my life every day, and to be grateful for each and every one of them. I look at my amazing family and friends, my good health that allows me to leave the hospital and go for a run, my rewarding career, and I know that I have been blessed in life. Rather than focusing on the negative and allowing myself to become discouraged by difficult issues, I try to choose to be happy. Though I am certainly not always successful in this mission, more often than not, I find that happiness is a mindset and a way of looking at life.

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