Compassion in Silence: Reflections on the Art of Listening as a Medical Student in Palliative Care

  • Jonathan P. Galla
    Address correspondence to: Jonathan P. Galla, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, USA. (P.O. Box 20037).
    George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, DC, USA
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      Recently I had the privilege to take a clinical elective on spirituality and palliative care. Now mid-way through my third year of medical school, I was surprised by how often I found myself caring for patients with great suffering—not only patients with terminal illness, but those struggling with emotional and spiritual pain brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. During my first clerkship, surgery, I worked with a patient with an incurable cancer who struggled to understand her demise as the team worked to meaningfully extend her life. As the team talked about new scans, labs, possible resections and anastomoses, I kept wondering where her humanity fit into these discussions. Months later, I looked forward to this elective so I could better comprehend the spiritual dimensions of suffering by working with palliative care teams and shadowing chaplains over two weeks.

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