how-we-dieI’m thinking about the deaths of Drs. Sherwin Nuland and Frank Jobe.

Nuland was a Yale surgeon most famous for his National Book Award-winning book, How We Die. He wasn’t the first to look honestly at death, nor will he be the last. But his book caught on for it’s intelligence, candor, and look behind the curtain. What I admire about the book is how it demythologizes the dying process—something many of us are still afraid to discuss or even think about openly.

Nuland was also strikingly open about his own mental health. Early in his career, he spent nearly a year institutionalized for depression, and eventually underwent electroconvulsive (“shock”) therapy, which he credited with saving him.

tommy_john_autographFrank Jobe was also a surgeon, an orthopedist known for his innovation with baseball pitchers. In 1974, he operated on a guy named Tommy John (who then pitched for the L.A. Dodgers), who had torn a ligament in his pitching elbow. That injury was a career-killer for pitchers, so Jobe had nothing to lose. He transposed a tendon from John’s wrist to his elbow, which coupled with copious rehab (more than a year) strengthened the weak limb. John went on to have a second career, pitching successfully in the big leagues for another 14 years. The operation (“ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction”) now bears the name of the pitcher who made his surgeon famous.