Dawn Gross, MD, PhD, is dedicated to transforming the taboo around talking about death. Uniquely qualified to lead a cultural revolution on end of life care, Dawn holds a combined MD and PhD from Tufts University School of Medicine and the Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences, where she was trained rigorously as both physician and scientist. She received specialized fellowship training at Stanford University in one of the most aggressive, cure-focused specialties in medicine--Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplant.
Beginning her practice as a Hospice Team physician, Dawn was invited to attend on the palliative care team at the University of California, San Francisco. She was subsequently recruited away to become the Arthur M. Coppola Family Chair of the Department of Supportive Care Medicine and Clinical Professor of Hospice and Palliative Medicine at the City of Hope National Medical Center. Since Dawn's return to UCSF she has resumed her work as an attending physician working with palliative care teams at several sites including the Parnassus campus, the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, the UCSF Helen Diller Cancer Center at Mission Bay and Mt. Zion campuses, as well the home-based palliative care service, Bridges. She also became host for the first of its kind live, call-in radio program, Dying To Talk, broadcast on the oldest FM station west of the Mississippi, KALW 91.7 FM.
Her experiences as a Hospice and Palliative Medicine physician caring for people in their own homes, including trailer parks and penthouses, and then practicing in the ivory tower of one of the most highly regarded academic institutions in the country have given her a perspective without equal. It is perhaps the experience of being a mother and also of bearing witness to her father’s death and her mother’s simultaneous serious illness, however, that inspires her to write and speak extensively and to do the work she does today.
Dawn’s writing has been published in a variety of anthologies and journals including Science, JAMA, Annals of Internal Medicine, and The New York Times. Her recent work to develop a curriculum and offer a "Death Ed" class to high school students was written by her colleague and Death Ed co-creator, Jessica Nutik Zitter and published in the NY Times.
Dawn’s writing and her distinguished medical career share one aim: to show us how we can live fully until we die. She is determined, both through her writings and by example, to improve how the medical community and medical protocol communicate with people about their prognoses, even if they are dire, so as to help patients and families deal with the inevitable outcome with honesty and dignity. In the end, Dawn asserts, public policy must acknowledge and question incentives that prolong life with no appreciation for the impact on how we die. The public is just beginning to accept this dialogue and there is much, much more to be said.
Download Dawn's CV here.