Literary Art

2020 Art & Anesthesia Soirée


by Greg Hammer, MD

Happiness is simply to allow
everything to be

exactly as it is from moment to

Rupert Spira

This is an excerpt from GAIN Without Pain: The Happiness Handbook for Healthcare Professionals by Greg Hammer, MD, which is available in paper and e-book versions on Amazon

This chapter is about happiness—what it is and how we get more of it in our professional and personal lives. More and more of us in medical practice are feeling less happy at work, and burnout is increasingly common. We can reverse this trend by embracing a few simple principles that we can put into motion in our everyday lives at the hospital, at home, or wherever we are. Thankfully, the “happiness tools” are fully portable.

What is happiness? Although every person on the planet wants happiness, its definition is elusive. Happiness has been described as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being.” Peace, contentment, joy, well-being—these are often used as synonyms of happiness. It may have a variety of definitions, but we know it when we see (or feel) it. A growing body of research tells us that happiness improves physical health, including our cardiovascular and immune systems. This a bi-directional process—fitness, in all of its manifestations, makes us

Greg Hammer, MD, is a Professor at Stanford University School of Medicine. As a pediatric anesthesiologist and an intensive care physician, he cares for children and their families during very stressful times.


by Lis P. Sipin-Gabon

— For baby Mela Gabon —
Rest in Peace …  September 1, 2014

“There’s just so many flowers.” We stand in a white room in your father’s house at the end of the peninsula. In Los Angeles, the weather is infused with heat and sun. “There’s just so many flowers,” your father’s voice again, this time inflected and lingering. These are our words for death, for loss, the silences between our laughter and grief. The vibrant lilies and orchids bend their faces toward us, and we sing with our bellies Christian hymns and songs, our hands lifted to an unseen G-d, turning our hidden faces to the open sea.

You were born in September. Forty-seven minutes of breath, life. We cover your home with violet flowers and white roses, they crowd the front porch, the living room, the four-shelves bookcase, the bathroom, the kitchen. The windows are open, and we smell the waft of waves pushing us open. “There are just so many flowers.” What to do with the flowers? your father asks us. “There are just so many flowers.”

Sometimes, time collapses. Sometimes, time holds no sense. Sometimes, there are no other words.

Sometimes, the most bittersweet and beautiful thing is to make potpourri in the winter. The smells, the touch of a broken rose, the velvety colors of the petals, the dousing of salt to suck the water out, the transformation of life to embalmed death. Half a year has passed, and I am still thinking of you while it snows across the country and I no longer stand in your father’s house praying hymnals. I face another sea, frozen and unbroken. I look out the window and the blanket of white brings me back to you. I stand and witness the image of your mother carrying you, you wrapped in a pink blanket, your mother’s brief smile filled with warmth and the heat and swell of home, to the face of your mother just trying

for one more day

to live on


and again.

Lis P. Sipin-Gabon is the Critical Care Division Coordinator at the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine.


by Adjoa Boateng, MD

The uncertainty never ceases

So swallow it, digest it, allow it to permeate & circulate analogous to those golden embers that fueled and propelled your desire to joining this sacred sorority. 

It is a calling, an honor - burn that into your soul! Never let it escape you. In humiliation, in praise. It is, and will always be an honor. 

It is the nexus of joy and pain, like those small candies we let tap dance across our tongues trying to identify if they are sour or sweet. 

Day 1:

  • Pristine, unmarred white coat - check 
  • Stethoscope - check 
  • Pocket guide - check

All good, but until the dive, no exterior, no tool, no brilliant AI-littered app can describe the sojourn from breakfast to the cry of live birth, to CPR, to blood spewing to “breaking bad news” as we shuffle inept words saying, “there is nothing else we can do”, to a devastated body, corpselike, restored by the gift of transplant. 

Welcome to the wonderful world of the ICU where you see the beauty of God personified each day in a new and different iteration, buckle up!

Adjoa Boateng, MD is an Anesthesia Critical Care Medicine Fellow in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine. She is transitioning into a clinical faculty position in July 2020.