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Dr. Leah Steinberg

dr. leah steinberg

Role at the Centre

Leader, In-hospital Care Program

In-hospital care doctor

Year started at the Centre

2006

Year became a doctor

1996

 

Dr. Leah Steinberg is stumped. It’s not the question that has stopped her dead in her tracks — it’s a simple enough question after all: “Why do you do the work you do?”

No, it’s not the question, it’s the choice of answers that has got her thinking. “There are a hundred answers I could give,” she says. Finally, however, she picks one: “It feels that I can use more of my skills to help people in this work,” she says. “It feels like people need it. What we do, it fills a real gap in health care.”

The skills challenge all the aspects of being a physician, she says. She enjoys spending more time with patients, and looking after their emotional as well as their medical needs. “It’s not that the skills are advanced,” she says. “They’re not. What we do here isn’t rocket science, but it does require a different approach than you typically learn in medical school. At the end of every day I feel like I’ve helped someone.”

It’s challenging work, but Dr. Steinberg crackles with energy, and it’s easy to tell it’s a challenge she welcomes and enjoys.

She came to palliative care, like many of the physicians at the Centre, from family medicine. In her training, she visited patients at home under the supervision of her family medicine supervisor. This care was supported and encouraged in her training. Then, in family medicine, she provided vacation coverage for home-based palliative care patients, and she found it rewarding. “At the end of those days, I felt I had done something for my patients.”

But that wasn’t the only thing that informed her thinking about providing palliative care full-time. “A neighbour’s daughter died. She was only nine. It was that which pushed me further into thinking about palliative care as a choice for a profession.”

She’s been at the Temmy Latner Centre since 2006, and feels her life has been enriched by her job. “If the world is geographically diverse, it is equally diverse in personalities. In this job I feel like I’ve travelled around the world without leaving Toronto. It’s broadened my understanding, steadied me, helped me to develop an ability to cope, a resilience.”

What she treasures most, however, is the satisfaction that comes from the work she does. When I ask her to be more specific, to offer up an example, she thinks for a moment, and then dives in. “Well,” she says, “I’ll visit a patient one day who’s in pain and too uncomfortable to interact well with family. If we can help them manage that pain, so that the next day they’re comfortable and can participate with their family, then they can have more meaningful interactions. It’s as simple as that: as simple as making people feel better.”

She pauses again. “Sometimes,” she concludes, “it’s nothing more than listening.”

 

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