This post is from one of the Inspiring Hospice and Palliative Medicine Leaders Under 40. Jessica Merlin, MD MBA, was selected based on her involvement in AAHPM, educating others about hospice and palliative medicine, participation in charitable work, and mentoring of students or residents. The honoree was then asked who inspired her over the course of her career. We are sharing some of her answers in this post. Check back regularly for posts from other leaders.

Who has most influenced your work in hospice and palliative medicine and what impact has he or she had?
I am fortunate to have had one of the giants in our field, Dr. Christine Ritchie, as my steadfast mentor. Christine has guided me through every aspect of my work, from study design to helping me with the often challenging transition from fellow to faculty. Whenever I find myself in a difficult situation, I always try to channel Christine’s compassionate but always practical and level-headed advice.

What is the best advice you have ever received
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received was actually from a TED talk, but is something that Christine and I have also often discussed, and something that I have personally experienced many times: “Chance favors the connected mind.” In other words, if you are engaged in your surroundings, passionate about what you do, work well with those around you, and open to new possibilities, amazing opportunities will come your way.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
One of my biggest opportunities has been to work in a very understudied area within palliative care – chronic pain, particularly in individuals with HIV. Approaches to chronic pain are often different than approaches to pain in serious illness disease, and include a focus on improving long-term pain and function through treating mood disorders and addiction when present, and optimizing person-centered self-management strategies. Over the next five years, I hope that my work will allow me to bring these approaches to community-based palliative care, and put chronic pain more on the “palliative care map” as a key area of importance within our field.