Death By Design


Joesph Stern, MD

Season 3, Ep. 19

Propelled by my younger sister Victoria’s surprise diagnosis of acute leukemia, an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant, and later her death, I have been exploring the impact her illness had on me, as well as the personal experiences of physicians, patients and families going through similarly disruptive losses.  Victoria wrote a powerful journal about her nearly eight-month hospitalization, which I have incorporated into a memoir:  “Grief Connects Us: A Doctor’s Lessons in Love, Loss, and Compassion.” In this book, I advocate for greater compassion and empathy in the way we treat each other and our patients, and make specific suggestions how we can improve health care delivery to achieve these goals.


In addition to this memoir, I have written essays and made presentations. Some are upcoming. These include:


Columbia University Medical School, April, 2020.

TED-x Greensboro:  Developing Emotional Agility in Medical Practice (March, 2020)

“My Continuing Medical Education:  The Power of Human Touch.” Podium presentation at IAHC annual meeting in Greenville, SC., May 2019.  

Panel Director: “The power of writing to foster empathy and compassion,” Annual Schwartz Conference, Boston, September 2019.

Schwartz Rounds at Cone Health, May 2019 and March 2020.

“Grief As My Guide: How My Sister Made Me a Better Doctor,” Cone Health: CHES Series, June 2019.

Keynote speaker, Palliative Care Colloquium, Boston Archdiocese, May 2019.

“The Power of Human Touch,” IAHC Journal, in press.

“Cone Health:  Our Journey to Top Decile Physician Engagement,” Presented with Mickey Foster and Jonathan Berry, MD at Press Ganey Annual Meeting, Orlando, Florida, November 2018.

“On the Receiving End of Neurosurgical Care: Lessons I Have Learned,” presented at the 100thAnniversary of the Department of Neurosurgery foundation at The University of Michigan, Sept. 2018.


“Dying in the Neurosurgical ICU,” The New York Times January 14, 2020.

“Moral Distress in Neurosurgery,” The New York Times, August 15, 2019.

“Grief As My Guide: How My Sister Made Me a Better Doctor,” The New York Times, Nov. 14, 2018. 

“Compassion Belongs in the Operating Room,” World Neurosurgery 132:441-442, December 2019. 

“A Week in Honduras, The impact of bringing spinal surgery to the NPH orphanage in Honduras through the auspices of One World Surgery,” March 2019.

“Grief Connects Us: A Doctor’s Lessons in Love, Loss, and Compassion” Memoir.

Podcasts and Radio:

Frankly Speaking About Cancer with Kim Thiboldeaux, Cancer Support Community,Aired May 21, 2019

Podcast with Jeffrey Segal, MD

Transcript and access to podcast is


Webpage –

Dr. Stern earned his undergraduate and medical school degrees, as well as completed his internship and residency, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.   He concluded a fellowship in pediatric scoliosis surgery with Dr. Jean Dubousset at the Hospital Saint Vincent de Paul in Paris, France, and since then, has been in continuous practice.  Dr. Stern has eight issued U.S. patents for medical devices.  

More Episodes


Garrick Colwell

Season 3, Ep. 43
It was April of 2017 when Garrick and the late Kinsloe Kelley Colwell, LMFT, invited over 20 Austin area healthcare professionals to meet and discuss ways in which they couldassist the Central Texas community in becoming aware of the importanceof completing their advance care directives.Over the next few months, the group met and decided to offer educational programs and resources through a non-profit organization they would call Kitchen Table Conversations.They felt the name of the organization would encourage people to have the end of life conversations in the comfort of their homes instead ofduringa medical crisis in the ICU.July 1, 2017, this web site was launched. The first workshop was offered the following month.In October, AARP of Central Texas began sponsoringThe 3 Ds of Advance Care Planning:How to Decide, Discuss, and Document Your End of Life Wishesworkshops.In 2020 AARP will sponsor four such webinars that will reachthousands of Central Texans.These workshops are facilitated by Garrick Colwell, President, and CEO of Kitchen Table Conversations.Garrick has been a Hospice Volunteer since 1987, servingas an on-callhospital and hospice chaplain. He is aRespecting Choices® Person-Centered CareFirst Steps® Advance Care Planning Certified Instructor and Facilitator.As aCertified Grief Recovery Specialist,he co-created with Hospice AustinConversationsOn Grief, a monthly online grief support program. As a volunteer, heco-facilitates drop-in and loss of spouse grief support groups.Garrick has completed over 200 hours of study with a grief expert David Kessler David is the author of five bestselling books on grief. His first book,The Needs of the Dying,is a #1 best-selling hospice book praised by Mother Teresa. He co-authored with thelegendary Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, MD, bothOn Grief and GrievingandLife Lessons.David's most recent bookFinding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief,waspublished in November 2019.Recently, Garrick completed 240 hours of training with the author, educator, and griefcounselor Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D., CT, and holds aDeath and Grief Studiescertificate fromthe internationally recognized Center for Loss and Life Transition, a privatean organization founded by Dr. Wolfelt that is dedicated tofurthering our understanding of grief.In 2020 Kitchen Table Conversations began offering their Grief Education webinar series.Topics, dates, and times can be found on our Home Page; click on Grief Education.Garrick can be reached at 512-787-3402 orgarrick@KitchenTableConversations.orgHost a Kitchen Table Conversations Webinar, Activity, or EventIf you're interested in hosting a FREE workshop, activity, or event onAdvance Care Planningfor your company, faith community orspecial interest group,please call us today at512-787- 3402.

Hope Edelman, Author

Season 3, Ep. 42
HOPE EDELMANhas been writing, speaking, and leading workshops and retreats in the bereavement field for more than 25 years. She was 17 when she lost her mother to breast cancer and 40 when her father died, events that inspired her to offer grief education and support to those who cannot otherwise receive it.Her first book,Motherless Daughters, was a #1New York Timesbestseller and appeared on multiple bestseller lists worldwide. Her work has been translated into 14 languages and published in 11 countries. Hope is the author of seven additional nonfiction books, includingMotherless Mothersand the memoirThe Possibility of Everything. She was the recipient of the 2020 Community Educator Award from the Association for Death Education and Counseling and has won a Puschcart Prize for her creative nonfiction.In addition to writing and speaking, she is a certified Martha Beck Life Coach and also leads nonfiction workshops to help writers tell, revisit, and revise their stories of loss. Hope lives and works in Los Angeles and Iowa City.The AfterGrief OverviewDrawing on her own encounters with the ripple effects of early loss, as well as on interviews with dozens of researchers, therapists, and regular people who’ve been bereaved,New York Timesbestselling authorHope Edelmanoffers profound advice for reassessing loss and adjusting the stories we tell ourselves about its impact on our identities.With guidance for reframing a story of loss, finding equilibrium within it, and even experiencing renewed growth and purpose in its wake, she demonstrates that though grief is a lifelong process, it doesn’t have to be alifelong struggle. don’t ever ‘get over’ the death of a loved one.But we do eventually ‘get on‘ with living in a world without this essential person by our side.It takes time to learn how to live in this new world.It takes time.”—HOPE EDELMAN