Working at the intersection of sociology, palliative care, and ethics to foster care and compassion in the culture and practice of medicine

I am a sociologist and hospitalist physician conducting research at the nexus of palliative and end-of-life care, empirical bioethics, and sociology. I am an Assistant Professor at UCSF in the Division of Palliative Medicine and Social and Behavioral Sciences, Sociology program. I also direct the ethics curriculum for UCSF medical students. In addition, I am a Senior Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health based at the Global Brain Health Institute at UCSF’s Memory and Aging Center. I completed my PhD in medical sociology at the University of Cambridge at King’s College as a Gates Cambridge Scholar and was a general internal medicine post-doctoral clinical research fellow and palliative care research fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. I wrote my dissertation on the influence of institutional cultures and policies on physicians’ ethical beliefs and how that impacts the way they communicate in end of life decision-making conversations.

My current research is focused on understanding the systemic factors (and in particular ethical decision-making climate) that contribute to overly aggressive, burdensome care at the end of life in older adults, focusing on older adults with advanced dementia in the United States, United Kingdom, and France. I also works on issues of physician moral distress as it pertains to burnout and physician alienation. I employ qualitative methods of comparative ethnography including semi-structured in-depth interviews and participant observation. I have also been involved in the statewide and UCSF response to the legalization of physician aid in dying in California (End of Life Option Act).

My research is funded by the UCSF CTSI KL2 program, the National Palliative Care Research Center Junior Investigator Career Development Award, National Institute of Aging (GEMSSTAR R03), the Atlantic Philanthropies, and the Alzheimer’s Society UK. I am a visiting Research Fellow at King’s College London, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine as well as a visiting Assistant Professor in General Internal Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).