Two doctors I admire won MacArthur Foundation grants today. Wafaa El-Sadr (right) is an Epidemiologist and Infectious Disease doctor at Columbia University and Harlem Hospital in NYC. She has probably done as much or more for expanding HIV and TB treatment worldwide than any other single person. She is the PI for some of the largest HIV treatment studies. She also advocates for access to treatment in the poorest and most vulnerable people worldwide. She is the first person who taught me that HIV and TB are "evil stepsisters," who often travel hand-in-hand.
Diane Meier (left) is a geriatrician who works at Mount Sinai hospital in New York. She specializes in palliative care, which means care directed at comfort, rather than cure, at the end of life. The MacAuthur website says:
She recognized that modern medicine’s focus on curing disease and prolonging life failed to treat the physical and psychological distress of patients in both early and advanced stages of serious illness. Her studies found that a high percentage of seriously ill patients in hospitals were experiencing limited communication between patients and clinicians, poor management of pain, and insufficient support and social services for family caregivers. To fill these voids, Meier established the Hertzberg Palliative Care Institute at Mount Sinai, a model program that assists patients and families in navigating the complexities of illness and devises strategies for managing pain and other symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, and loss of appetite.
While many doctors recognize these challenges, Dr. Meier does more to resolve them than most. I have heard many talks about palliative care, but I have never heard anybody speak with such wisdom and empathy as Dr. Meier. Her work will both save money for the American health care system, which spends an inordinate amount on the last two weeks of life, and spare patients and families pain that comes with useless tests and treatments at the end of the end.