Stanford neurosurgeon and writer Paul Kalanithi dies at 37

March 21, 2015, 2:36 a.m.

Stanford neurosurgeon and writer Paul Kalanithi ’99 M.A. ’00 died of lung cancer on March 9 at the age of 37.

Kalanithi was well known for his essays published in the New York Times, The Paris Review and Stanford Medicine, which shared his insights on mortality in the face of his illness.

Kalanithi had recently completed his neurosurgery residency at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He was an instructor in the Department of Neurosurgery and a fellow at the Stanford Neurosciences Institute. During his time here, he had authored more than 20 scientific publications and received the American Academy of Neurological Surgery’s highest award for research.

“We are all devastated by the tragedy of his sudden illness and untimely demise,” said Gary Steinberg, professor and chair of neurosurgery, in a press release. “Paul spent seven years with us. He’s very much part of our neurosurgical family. It affects us like a death in a closely knit family.”

During the last months of his life, Kalanithi worked on a teaching module with VJ Periyakoil, the director of Stanford’s palliative care education and training program.

Periyakoil described the module as teaching the lessons Kalanithi learned from being on both the doctor and the patient sides.

“His ‘dual citizenship’ as a doctor and as a seriously ill patient had taught him that respectful communication is the bedrock of all medicine,” Periyakoil said, in a press release. “We talked about the design of the module and how we could tailor it to make our medical students understand that the so-called soft skills of medicine are the truly hard skills to teach and to learn.”

While at Stanford for his undergraduate years, Kalanithi wrote for The Daily and played for the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band, graduating in 2000 after double majoring in English literature and human biology.

Kalanithi is survived by his wife, Lucy Goddard Kalanithi, a clinical instructor in medicine at Stanford; daughter, Cady; parents, Sujatha Kalanithi and A. Paul Kalanithi; brothers, Suman Kalanithi and Jeevan Kalanithi; and Jeevan’s wife, Emily Kalanithi, as well as their children, Eve and James.


Contact Catherine Zaw at czaw13 ‘at’

Catherine Zaw was formerly the Managing Editor of News for Vol. 245 and Vol. 246. To contact her, please email [email protected].

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