This post is from one of the Inspiring Hospice and Palliative Medicine Leaders Under 40. Joseph Milano, MD, was selected based on his 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 him over the course of his career. We are sharing some of his 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?
During my short career as physician, and an advocate of the fragile population, there is one person who has overwhelmingly pushed me to new heights of positive impact. This individual has not only influenced the direction of my career but has shaped my perception of how we treat patient and families during times of crisis. Her name is Susan Degnan. Susan was an employee at Huntington hospital for nearly a half of a century. The role of a social worker fit her best, and fortunately for me that role was the greatest impression on my career.

Susan was not only my team-mate, but also was a mentor. She released her knowledge and wisdom very easily. She never held back to offer a compassionate answer or solution but actually leaned forward by offering more of herself. It was an absolute honor and privilege to work alongside an individual that appreciated the very granular pieces of human interaction. It is with great honor that I am able to recognize Susan Degnan as the individual that has impacted me the most.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Recently, the honor and privilege came to me by being given the opportunity to medically direct the house call program for the North Shore-LIJ health system. Currently I am very excited about developing and spreading the program beyond its current capacity. This journey for our team will be very exciting and full of new experiences.

The journey will likely take me years to feel that the groundwork which is being laid, and the efforts which will be accomplished, will set a foundation for a community and for the health system.

Therefore, within the next few years, I see myself with in this role developing, learning, and achieving a better understanding of what our community needs when dealing with our fragile population.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

Advice comes from many directions and normally advice that does come pertains to only what you’re going through at the time. Keeping this in mind, if the information given to you makes sense, reasonable, and realistic I accept the advice and use it accordingly.

The one specific example of a life lesson was from the same person that influenced my career the most my former social worker Susan Degnan. Susan, always reflected, never presumed, and never judged quickly. It was because of the way that she approached every difficult situation; she was able to leave with me an impression that was life lasting.

The best advice that she ever came to me with was not a secret, it was not even her own words. The advice was from a well- known prayer. That prayer was called the Serenity prayer. The words within that prayer gave me comfort and a deeper understanding of why things do not always work out the way you would wish. As a young physician that was difficult to infuse with in my practice. The more I remembered the words the easier it was to practice the understanding.

So again, I owe the best advice given to me within my career to Mrs. Susan Degnan.