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

Dinner Table Wisdom


Our mealtime companions can be a source of strength, support, and motivation. My childhood dinner table provided the roots for my compassion and dedication to serving patients.  

I’ve recently had the opportunity to devote dedicated time to creating an overview of my clinical approach and guiding principles. This has given me the chance to examine sources of influence (like mentors, successes, failures, collaborations) and to consider how my loved ones inform the ways in which I think about caring for patients. In short, I’m the product of academic parents, my father a theater professor at a liberal arts college and my mother a nursing professor.  


As a child, I spent a great deal of time observing my father’s play rehearsals and watching him take a deep dive into the characters’ history, motives, and culture. What particularly impacted me about this time was the exposure to the different character journeys. For example, the boy prince searching for fulfillment in “Pippin,” to four men with disabilities living in a group home in “The Boys Next Door.” I became keenly interested in the characters’ personal narratives, trying to understand their emotions and objectives.  


As a result of my mother’s career as a nursing professor and a researcher studying chronic illness self-management and healthcare services to vulnerable populations affected by HIV, our dinner conversations often included a discussion of her budding ideas. I was able to watch these ideas develop over time into studies, funded grants, publications, and dissemination into changes in patient care.  


These experiences combined to form my interest in clinical psychology. From them, I developed a desire to work with patients, to understand their behavior, emotions, and thoughts, and to help them build their own personal narrative/journey based on their desired path. In addition, I acquired a dedication to scientific methods and an understanding of and appreciation for deep investigation.  


Our loved ones can be a source of strength, support, motivation, and they help form our guiding principles. My childhood dinner table provided the roots for my compassion and dedication to utilizing scientific knowledge to best serve patients.   


Things we can do to tap into our loved ones to inform the ways that we think about caring for patients:


1. Hit the pause button and take time for self-reflection. 

2. Consider why you think the way you do and how your personal story impacts your care of patients. 

3. Be curious and nonjudgmental.  

4. Tune into core motivations. Ask, “What are my North Stars?” 






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