Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How does work creep into time away from work?

I just returned from two weeks in Australia visiting with my prognostication mentor Paul Glare in Sydney. The Sydney Institute of Palliative Medicine was hosting the 17th Annual Palliative Medicine Symposium and the topic du jour was Prognostication. (Go figure!)

It was very interesting to meet two experts in the field of prognosis of survival, Dr. Michael Downing of Victoria Hospice and Dr. Paddy Stone of St.George's in London. Dr. Downing helped create the Palliative Performance Scale (PPS) and is guiding some innovative research on transforming what was initially designed to be a assessment of functional status into a helpful prediction tool for hospice patients. Dr. Stone is heading the large multi-center Prognosis in Palliative care Study (PiPS) study in the UK. We even talked about having an ongoing prognosis conference someday in the future. Ha. Prognosis. Future.

It was also nice to meet some international palliativists and realize we all face similar issues. I also met some Pallimed readers. Fancy that!

I am very glad for the opportunity to speak at the symposium, meet these fine doctors and continue to work in the future with them, all thanks to the College of Palliative Care and American Academy of Hospice & Palliative Medicine's Year-Long Mentorship Program. The deadline for the application for next year is May 19th! If you are a junior faculty/recent fellow you should really think about it. My offer to mentor still stands, and I am sure Drew would as well.

So onto the title of the post..."How does work creep into a time away from work?" Does this happen to anyone else? Everywhere I went during the last two weeks during my trip to Australia, it seemed issues surrounding death, dying and palliative care just crept into my radar, especially while I pursued my entertainment options.

Before we left for the trip, my wife gave me a book for the plane. What did she give me? "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch, the professor from Carnegie Mellon, living/dying with pancreatic cancer. Even before I left my clinical work, I am reminded about it! It is a great book, and highly recommended as is his lecture on You Tube I previously blogged about.

So we get on the plane from LA to Sydney (14 hours), and I am so very excited about the personal video on demand entertainment. As I look through the movie options what do I see:

While in Sydney I grabbed a local paper, and find a columnist coming to terms with her mother's death. To learn more about Australia I read Bill Bryson's wonderful travel book "In a Sunburned Country," only to find each chapter has some story about someone dying to reflect on how brutal the wildlife and the environment can be in Australia.

Later thinking I would escape all these reminders of work, I pick up Rolling Stone. It's got Jack Johnson on the cover, he's mellow, relaxing, easy to listen to. I start reading the article to find out songs on his new album are dedicated to Danny Riley, a nineteen year old friend of the family who lived with Jack Johnson during his final months of life before dying from a brain tumor. So of course I had to listen to his album to actually think about the lyrics in a whole new way.

Please do not misread me, I am not upset that I ran into all these reminders of work. I even brought Victor Frankl's Man Search for Meaning on the trip. But I was not really looking for these things, so why did they seem to stand out? Maybe it is a clustering illusion or deformation professionalle?

Seriously, if I was an orthopedist would I run into so many stories or reminders of broken bones? Does a cardiologist see heart attack stories everywhere? Do BMW salesman see BMW's everywhere? Does this happen to anyone else?

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