Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

A journey through time 


As a young doctor, I cared for a centenarian. I realized that I’d never fully appreciated the complexity and challenges of aging—I now take extra time to uncover my older patients’ struggles. 

Earlier this year I had the privilege to meet a 102-year-old veteran who was under my care in the ICU. He kindly welcomed my morning visits with discussions about life, aging, and the sometimes-cruel effects of time, particularly for someone who found himself in a world he no longer recognized. 


For this patient, so alert and self-aware, witnessing the loss of loved ones, and living in a world so different from the one he grew up in, was a painful reminder of everything he missed. He vividly recounted his wartime experiences, how they’d shaped his life and relationships, and how he felt that someone that goes to war never really leaves it. He felt stuck with those memories and without the people that shared the toughest years of his life. Now, with his memories fading and having lost most of his loved ones, his identity began to blur as he struggled to reconcile his past selves with the realities of the present. Ultimately, he told me that being 102 was really a “lonely place to be in,” contrasting sharply with my initial perception of his longevity as a “huge privilege” through my 28-year-old lens. 


As a 28-year-old doctor, these morning talks with my patient humbly reminded me of how  most of us don’t fully appreciate the complexity of aging, loss, and the relentless passage of time. I realized I needed to take the time to give my aging patients the opportunity to share their struggles during our visits. 


Ultimately, this experience allowed me to contemplate my role and approach as a physician. It prompted me to reconsider the essence of caregiving, recognizing that beyond medications, treatments, or interventions, the most valuable contribution we can offer our patients—and indeed, anyone—is the gift of our time. 








This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.