In primo piano

That oceanic feeling

 Leggilo in italiano

Employment and vocational training

Can you say you have had a Mentor in your education?

I have had an ever-changing board of mentors over the years. I have had career mentors, mentors who have helped me navigate the challenges of my workplace, mentors in specific projects, and so on. I have been a physician now for 25 years and I continue to have and need mentors. Many now are my peers and are younger than me.

What are you most proud of in your career?

My capacity to surround myself with people of high integrity, more generous, and smarter than me. Every day they make me and the world better.

The biggest disappointment?

To not have known when I was younger what I know now.

List your reasons for choosing this career…

I wanted to study nerves and the brain. I thought you had to be a physician to do it. When I became a physician, I wanted to be a doctor for the elderly. Instead, I became an endocrinologist and I focused on diabetes. Yet, I spent most of my time as a researcher and educator focused on evidence-based medicine and patient centered care. Then, I became focused on changing medicine and healthcare through the Patient Revolution. If you know of any good reasons that can be used to explain this “career” please write me at

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Working with my friends and colleagues

And the most boring?

Not sure there are any boring parts…perhaps my friends and colleagues are doing the boring work?

Which is the aspect of work you most look forward to each day?

Being with my colleagues. COVID-19 has induced a physical separation but we start the day every work day with a 15-minute video conference. I really look forward to seeing their faces, and to hear their ideas and stories.

Can you describe your workplace? Is there something hanging on the walls of your studio?

Our usual workplace is a small office in which there are too many people and no dividing walls or doors. An ‘open design’ but not because we are progressive but because that is the only place we could get for our large team. I miss it – we have not been together in that space since March of 2020. In my office at home, where I spend most of my time, the wall has a whiteboard, the shelves have my books and leaning on some of those books are pictures of my family. I recently got a small replica of Rodin’s Cathedral that sits on the shelf to remind me of the central role of care in my life and in my work.

Challenges and stakes

What would be the first thing you would try to do as US Secretary of Health and Human Services?

Work with all relevant stakeholders to redistribute resources and effort from healthcare to health – basic infrastructure to ensure healthy water and food, reduced violence and stress, increasing nutritional, material, and emotional support for the family around childbirth and the first couple of years of life, etc. Would love to see more resources go into taking people off jails and onto productive lives, and to mobilize retirees to mentor young people. Would work with the other secretaries in developing programs to ensure a path that eliminates barriers to flourishing, reinvesting also in early childhood education. This program should impact maternal and child health, should reduce deaths of despair, and promote overall health. There would be the need to improve justice and give people hope. And all of these will need to be on top of overcoming the massive challenge of covid-19 and recovering from the global mourning for those dead because of the virus and our response to it.

And as a Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser?

Would invest in an infrastructure to support large scale simple trials occurring within the fabric of clinical care to figure out what works in healthcare. A similar approach could be used to answer other questions in human services. Similarly, would work with colleagues in education to improve the scientific literacy of decision makers, the press, teachers, and eventually the population. c understanding I hope we can overcome anti-science and re-gain trust.

What historical figure would you invite to dinner? And what political figure?

I would have dinner with those who have championed nonviolent approaches to bring change to the world. With those who have written with clarity about the present and with hope about the future. I would invite them all – not sure any of them would accept my invitation.

Reading and writing

How and where do you find the time to write?

I know it is somewhere but I keep looking and I cannot find it.

Offline or online?

I am online a lot.

Have you ever written a poem?

Some people find passages in Why We Revolt to be poetic, but poet I am not.

What non-medical book is on your nightstand?

A book of essays by Rebecca Solnit.

What is the last book you gave as a gift?


Your favorite writers?

Perhaps Murakami, Solnit, Hitchens.

Memories, passions, and…

Do you have any hidden fears that you can confide in us?

Of being completely wrong about what I feel most strongly is right.

Is there something you would not give up?

Time with my family.

What is one thing that fascinates you most?


Do you prefer to be at the table or to stand over the stoves?

I am a giver. I enjoy giving. But that can also happen at the table when we share stories.

Veg or meat eater?

I don’t eat anything that is still moving on the plate or that is looking back at me.

Are emotions an individual or collective phenomenon?



How do you wind down at the end of the working day?

Who does that?

Do you prefer to read online newspapers or print newspapers?

I prefer to read books on print – newspapers online.

Television is for watching…

Series and good movies.

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or TikTok?


Free time

What music do you usually listen to?

Prog rock, 70s-90s rock, little Vivaldi.

How do you prefer get around the city? Walk, bike, bus or car?

I like to walk and bike. My city makes it hard to do either.

Sea or mountain?

Ocean – of course!

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