Q&A with Leah Rosenberg, MD
December 11th, 2020
Leah Rosenberg, MD is an attending physician in the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Care at Massachusetts General Hospital and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Leah is a faculty member of the HMS Center for Palliative Care and course faculty for Practical Aspects of Palliative Care.
Why did you decide to work in palliative care?
My journey to palliative care began in college, where I studied philosophy and political & social thought at the University of Virginia. I spent a summer working closely with a social worker to coordinate a three-day summer camp, Camp Kids Can Cope, for seriously ill children and their siblings in Virginia Beach, VA. I was accepted early to medical school at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine through their innovative Humanities and Medicine Program and went on to complete Internal Medicine residency at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina. I have been incredibly lucky throughout my education to benefit from a wide variety of mentors, friends, and family members all supporting me in this career path.
Tell us about your research. What drew you to this?
My research area is the intersection of psychology or psychodynamic ideas and the world of palliative care. I was always torn between psychiatry and internal medicine as a medical student. It never really made sense to consider the body and the mind as two distinct entities and I was fascinated by the connections. I research ways to apply core concepts from psychotherapy and psychoanalysis to the work of serious illness care. Last year, I co-directed a two day seminar at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard called Healing Beyond the Cure: Psychodynamic Concepts in Palliative Care. From this seminar, I am working with a group to create a series of manuscripts exploring this area in greater depth. In this way, I get to have a foot in both disciplines and it’s a lot of fun.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
I really enjoy people in all their complexities, challenges, and nuances. I appreciate how our patients open their emotional lives to us as palliative care clinicians and I take that responsibility very seriously. I also like the moments of humor and irony that come up in our work – I meet some great characters every day!
What's the most helpful advice you have received?
One of the best parts of my job is getting the opportunity to spend time with older adults – some even in their 90s or 100s. My colleagues know how thrilled I am to be assigned patients born in the 1920s and 1930s – they have seen so much of life and the changing world. I often ask patients who have been happily partnered for decades if they have any advice, what’s their secret? My favorite recent answer from a couple who had been together nearly sixty years was “Love and patience.”
In your spare time, what do you do for fun?
A few years ago I had a summer without clinical responsibilities while I was undergoing credentialing for my current position. I referred to that time as the Summer of Leah and dedicated myself to attending yoga classes and learning how to cook. I can say that the yoga attendance has fallen by the wayside with all the new demands on my time but I can still put together a dinner in under an hour! I express my desire to bake things through watching the Great British Bake-off on Netflix – hopefully I’m learning something!