In her memoir That Good Night: Life and Medicine in the Eleventh Hour, Sunita Puri takes readers along on her journey as a first-generation American to becoming a physician, and then choosing to specialize in palliative care. She writes about the rewards she finds in caring for seriously ill patients, often at the end of their lives, when they may reveal what matters most to them.
The book is also a tribute to her close-knit family. Her mother, who overcame great adversity to attend medical school in Mumbai and went on to a successful career as an anesthesiologist, inspired her daughter’s interest in medicine. Yet, as Puri writes, it was hard for her mother to understand at first why she would set aside a more prestigious specialty in favor of palliative care, a relatively young field.
Now the medical director of palliative care at Keck Medical Center at the University of Southern California, Puri delivered the keynote address at The Inquirer’s first ever “Telling Your Health Story” conference on Sept. 28 where over 250 health-care providers, medical students and patients learned how to write about their experiences. In her speech, Puri shared what it means to be a writer, to write a story you didn’t expect, and writing to be understood, rather than to be liked.