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From Physician to Patient

By Huiru Guo, ’22SPS, Strategic Communication

Dr. Judy Fine-Edelstein, a neurologist with 35 years of experience practicing medicine, is currently enrolled in the M.S. in Bioethics program at Columbia SPS. But back in 2020, life as she knew it was put on hold. She noticed some concerning medical symptoms but initially attributed them to the everyday stress of her job. However, her health continued to deteriorate, and eventually, she was diagnosed with acute leukemia. 

Dr. Fine-Edelstein, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, tells her story of transformation from physician to patient. In her article, “A Place Where I Belong,” she describes her battle with the disease over the past two years—a traumatic struggle marked by, among other things, hair loss, an eating disorder, fear, and anxiety. 

But through her struggle, she learned more about her own profession and herself. Her journey through the medical system—this time as a patient—helped her be a better doctor, she writes. She now relates more to her patients and understands their struggles and fears on a whole different level. She concludes, “As a physician, and someone who has lived with the illusion that I had control over my life and work, I saw this all fade away once I entered those doors to the emergency department. Whether this will change for me in the future is yet to be determined.”

Read her story in the Journal of the American Medical Association

Columbia University’s Master of Science in Bioethics grounds students in interdisciplinary approaches and models to address pressing bioethical challenges such as stem cell research and health-care reform. The program prepares students to act as responsible and responsive leaders in this new and ever-growing field. It also includes a concentration in global bioethics—the first of its kind in the U.S. Columbia's Bioethics program offers a range of degrees and courses. Applications are open for fall 2023 enrollment.