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Lessons of Impermanence
by Sunita Puri M.D.
Posted August 19, 2019

Tibetan monks creating impermanent artAs a palliative care doctor, I spend much of my time face-to-face with pain and suffering, debilitating disease and death. When I began my training, I thought I was comfortable with the idea of mortality, and with the notion that fighting death at all costs wasn’t the sole purpose of medicine. But I hadn’t expected that the type of medicine I’d chosen to practice would require a strength and perspective that medical training hadn’t offered.

It was a chance encounter with a sand painting that helped me learn how to doctor patients I knew I would lose.

At the time, I was in the middle of my yearlong fellowship in hospice and palliative medicine, seeing patients at a county hospital in San Jose. I’d immersed myself in learning how to treat patients living with serious illnesses: end-stage heart failure, widespread cancer and devastating strokes. More…