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A Thanksgiving Message

November 21, 2018
by Mark David Siegel

Hi everyone,

By the time you read this, I’ll be on the road to West Islip. The plan is to leave before dawn, fueled by French Roast and nourished by bacon, egg, and cheese from the Acropolis. I’m driving to Long Island to pick up my mother-in-law, Edith, and bring her to a nursing home to wish my father-in-law a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope Konny remembers me. Edith and I will hug and kiss him before we return to Connecticut.

This is the first Thanksgiving that Konny and I won’t be hiking up East Rock together. He was a WWII survivor, a refugee who foraged for food in the wasted fields of Central Europe before escaping to a new life in America. He soon learned English, though a special dialect all his own. He became a citizen, married Edith, raised a son and daughter, learned a trade, and opened a camera repair shop. My earliest memories of Konny and Edith were the dinners. Heide inherited her cooking and artistic talents from her mother, and she inherited resilience and generosity from her father. Konny rescued dogs from the pound and served them sumptuous plates of meat scraps, fat, and sinew, garnered from leftovers. A devoted Mason and Shriner, he raised money for sick children. He loved his adopted country. Every holiday he made the same toast, a broken, tearful, “God Bless America.”

The melancholy of this year's Thanksgiving fills me with a particularly deep gratitude. I've loved my father-in-law for over 30 years. Heide’s parents gave me the gift of their daughter and, because of that gift, our children.

On this holiday I am especially aware of our blessings. This afternoon we will share a meal with my 95-year-old mother, my brothers, and their families. The girls are home. We will celebrate our first Thanksgiving in Heide's cooking school.

This year’s sweet melancholy also reminds me of the way I feel when I'm on call for the holidays. Being on call creates a special opportunity to alleviate suffering. I never leave a bedside without telling patients that next year they would celebrate at home.

On this Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks for our loved ones and the time we have together. What we cherish most is also the most fleeting; the more precious it is, the more quickly it passes.

I will be thinking of all of you today, especially those of you spending Thanksgiving in the hospital, healing your patients and supporting each other. God bless you all. God bless our time together. God bless America.

Wishing everyone a joyous and memorable Thanksgiving,


PS For further reading:

How to Be Grateful Without Rolling Your Eyes

Gratitude is good medicine


PPS Thanks to so many of you for sharing your Thanksgiving blessings with me. Here's the list (edited slightly for brevity and privacy):

  • “I am grateful for the friends I have made in residency. Now that I'm a PGY-3 and on the precipice of graduation I'm realizing just how thankful I am that they are in my life.”
  • “I’m grateful for my amazing co-residents who have truly become like family to me! 🤗”
  • “I am grateful for the opportunity and the space to grow as a person and a medical professional, and the friends and mentors who have helped to guide me. Gobble”
  • “I am grateful for your sending me the Program Director's Notes. So I feel like I'm part of the community of learning. So I feel like both a colleague and a resident in the program. Vicarious thrills”
  • “I guess I'm grateful for the simple things. I'm grateful for my inner peace, a supportive and loving husband, and 2 kids who bring me happiness. I'm grateful to be able to provide more than enough for my family. I'm grateful for having friends who I can consider my family since my own family are so far away. I'm grateful for my family who are able to take care of my aging Dad.”
  • “I'm grateful for the time I spent at Yale -- it never leaves you!!”
  • “I am so grateful for our residents. They are a year-after-year refreshing injection of endless curiosity, positive energy, and unbound passion for our program and our specialty. They are willing to ask the tough questions and challenge dogma, and are determined to propose ways to get the answers themselves. They seek and truly value our wisdom, feedback, and mentorship. They show tremendous empathy for the underserved, often dealing with complicated clinical and socioeconomic challenges, yet always seem to find time among their hectic schedules to ensure putting the patients’ best interests first. They continually inspire us all.”
  • “Grateful to serve on faculty in a program which values compassion, civility, humanism, and aspirational medical care.”
  • “I’m grateful for social workers, my co-residents, and all of my patients who share their stories with me. And on a more personal note- I’m so thankful for you and for all our chiefs. You have all shown [one of our co-interns] such love and kindness in the past month, and it makes me so proud to call this program home.”
  • “Most of all, kind and supportive friends and family.”
  • “Simple – Health for me and my family”
  • “Grateful for my co-residents”
  • “This year has been one of challenges that have tested my strength, courage, faith, friendships and love. I smiled despite the adversity knowing the reason I pushed through...[my daughters]. I had no idea the strength of a parent’s love for their child and a willingness to face anything to have the opportunity to watch them grow. I’m also much more appreciative of my health and the many friends who stood behind me this year. Finally, I am thankful for the opportunity to make the cancer journey (or other major health concerns) even slightly easier for my patients. Thank you for including me in this and counting me amongst your people.”
  • “I am grateful for the opportunity to take care of Veterans, they are appreciative and thankful for the care they receive, and the VA system allows us to support their complex needs. I am also grateful for the trainees I work with - they are enthusiastic, caring, hardworking, and smart, and they really want to learn.”
  • “Family, friends, great teams of colleagues, laughter, good food, changing seasons, Yale's opportunities...”
  • “In addition to being thankful for healthy and happy family and friends, I'm grateful for getting to do a job that I love with so many incredibly talented and thoughtful people. I also am quietly thrilled that my Philadelphia 76ers are exciting again!”
  • “The people I’m surrounded with at work and at home who make all things possible. They take good ideas and turn them into great realities.”
  • “Well, I do have so much to say about this! But for starters:
    • Our children
    • The health of my family and friends and colleagues
    • The blessings in disguise, even when the initial disappointment feels so heavy
    • Brave citizens of this community, country and world who fight for the betterment of all humankind
    • Financial security
    • Seemingly unconditional love of my spouse and parents
    • Lin Manuel Miranda”
  • “I'm thankful for:
    • A loving and supportive family and spouse
    • Comforts of daily living that are often taken for granted
    • Good health, and the ability be part of the healing process for others
    • A residency program and colleagues who share similar values and embolden me to be the physician/person I have always aspired to be”
  • “I have lots of things to be thankful for but specifically this year I am thankful for…being able to start my residency. I am thankful that I was matched at Yale and that I am part of a Yale family.”
  • “Thankful for all the residents and attendings who check in often when I need it most and who routinely offer above and beyond support... also [my co-intern] for hosting a displaced Midwesterner on Thanksgiving.”
  • “I am grateful because I realized the challenges I came across simply meant opportunities if you embrace them. I am grateful because I had people in my life who led me in the right direction along the way. These days on a daily basis, there is nothing more exciting to be surrounded by people in our program who want to accompany you in the right direction in the face of life or death decisions for our patients. Therefore, I am grateful for being at where I am now. Thank you for making this happen.”
  • “I’m grateful for friends who find courage to push their boundaries - and in doing so, inspire me to branch out too.”
  • “I am very grateful for my co-interns who have quickly become my close friends and who have supported me through the toughest parts of intern year.”
  • “Family and kind, thoughtful, generous co-residents that sacrifice so that I could be with family.”
  • “I'm most grateful for my co-residents; the ones that give me pep talks when I'm feeling overwhelmed, teach me when I haven't got a clue, and invite me to their homes”
  • “I'm thankful for all the people that inspire me and encourage me to be better.”
  • “I’m thankful for everything modern medicine has achieved that allows the people I love and me to live better lives. I personally would be a non-contributory member of society without the magic of glasses or contact lenses! Most of my family would be equally lost.”
  • “I’m thankful for
    • My beautiful wife for staying supportive.
    • My family for encouraging me to pursue my dreams.
    • The many friends I met along the way.
    • My patients who share their most difficult moments in life with me.
    • My new family at Yale for allowing me an opportunity to become a great Internist.”
  • “I am thankful first and foremost for having the honor of serving people, taking care of them, and holding their hands, when they’re in pain, not doing well, and need help in their hardest times, for their health and life. I see this as the biggest gift ever being given to me, every day. It’s the only thing that keeps me going, every single day, every moment! I’m thankful for my and all my “loved” ones’ health, and I “love” my family, my wonderful friends and amazing mentors. I’m thankful for this journey.”
  • “I’m thankful for my family, boyfriend and friends, for the education I’m receiving and specially this year for having such a supportive residency family”
  • “I am very grateful for having the privilege to work every day with amazingly supportive and inspiring co-residents and faculty to help our patients and their families in a situation of need.”
  • “I’m most grateful for:
    • My lovely wife and family, who support me both from here and from thousands of miles away
    • My wonderful friends in this program
    • This amazing community, filled with curious minds and earnest hearts trying to help everyone around them, from fellow physicians to patients to staff”
  • “I am grateful for friends and family at home and also for my new friends and family here at Yale! Never have I met so many amazing and supportive people, the kind that have your back when you need it, offer to cover holidays for one another unasked, and even host Thanksgiving dinner on their vacation time for those that have to work! So grateful to be here and to get to know you all. Also really grateful for this furry sister of mine who is helping with pie baking!”

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone (I’ll be taking a break from PD Notes this Sunday)


Submitted by Mark David Siegel on November 22, 2018