This week’s faculty spotlight shines on palliative care physician Nathan A Gray, MD. Gray talks to us about how he got into palliative care, his efforts to expand access to palliative care, and his own work as an amateur cartoonist.
How long have you been at Duke? How long have you been at the division?
I came to Duke a year and a half ago as a fellow in Hospice and Palliative Medicine. I joined the Division of General Medicine this past summer as a member of the Palliative Care Program.
What are your responsibilities within the division? What does a typical day for you look like?
My schedule and typical work day vary greatly by location; I see inpatient Palliative Care consults at Duke University Hospital and Duke Regional, co-manage patients with the Oncology service at Duke Hospital, and staff the inpatient hospice unit for Duke Hospice. I enjoy the variety of settings and roles.
What do you enjoy most about working in palliative care? What made you decide to pursue this field?
I find the chance to ease symptoms and help people navigate the rough waters of complex medical decision-making highly rewarding. I came to this area late in residency when a wonderful clinical mentor showed me the profound impact that good Palliative Care can have.
You were the lead author of a systematic review about the growth of buried metaplasia after endoscopic ablation of Barrett’s esophagus. Can you tell me a bit more about this research? What were the findings of the review?
That project was an endeavor in residency that I undertook while still trying to decide on a career path. Although my interests have since taken me pretty far afield from esophageal pathology, the experience and the opportunity to work with a fantastic research mentor on the publication were invaluable. My current academic interests lean toward Palliative education and disparities in health-care access.
How do these interests in palliative education and disparities in access to care fit together?
I am interested in promoting access to Palliative care by educating students and trainees from all disciplines in Palliative principles. Additionally, I am interested in extending the reach of Palliative Care services to patients living with chronic illness in the community. One such nascent project is an effort to bring mobile Palliative Care education and patient visits to Duke using a “Palliative Care Bus.”
What passions or hobbies do you have outside of the division?
I am an amateur cartoonist and a plodding runner. My cartoons are mostly medical in nature and mostly made for my own creative outlet and distraction, but I occasionally share them when I have a captive audience [sample cartoon attached below]. I also enjoy spending time with my incredible wife who works here at Duke as a post-doctoral fellow.
Have you recently read any journal articles, books or blogs that would be of interest to the division?
I recently finished the book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” which skillfully mixes the history of laboratory cell culture with a human spin on bioethics and just started reading “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande.