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The Challenge of Gratitude (A Thanksgiving Message)

November 24, 2021
by Mark David Siegel

“Feeling grateful does not always happen naturally. Thankfulness is something like a muscle we can exercise. Just as we can cultivate ingratitude, entitlement, bitterness or cynicism, we can foster gratitude, appreciative humility, delight and joy.”

-Tish Harrison Warren

Hi everyone:

You will be forgiven if you’re struggling to express gratitude today. The year began with optimism, but then reality set in. Though diminished, the pandemic persists. Day by day, our democracy grows more fragile. Despite wealth and technology, we struggle to confront inequality and climate change. On our phones and computers, newsfeeds flood us with stories of displacement, violence, poverty, and homelessness. In the face of so much suffering, gratitude can seem delusional.

But Thanksgiving challenges us to look past these problems, to see the blessings that surround us.

For this reason, I’m determined to offer thanks today: for those who leave home before sunrise and get home after sunset; for those who find time to teach and encourage teammates; for those who treat patients with skill and compassion; for those who won’t let rage keep them from seeing the good in all people.

In the face of so many challenges, I am grateful. You nourish my faith in kindness, because I see it everywhere, every day, in each of you.

Have a joyous Thanksgiving, everyone, and a special thanks to all those working in the hospital today.


PS: We’re driving to New Jersey this afternoon for a big family gathering, our first in two years!

PPS: Program Director’s Notes will return on December 5.

PPPS: A banquet of Thanksgiving Gratitude:

Albert Do (GI Attending):

  • Ability to have more certainty in actions, during this time of uncertainty
  • Exercise
  • Excitement of young children and family (even with the drama)

Inginia Genao (Associate Chair for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion)

  • I’m thankful for my family, friends and the opportunity to make a difference. I’m also thankful for my patients, trainees and colleagues who help me to be a better person

Anna Qian (PGY2)

  • I'm grateful for my loving family, brilliant friends, supportive mentors, and extremely fluffy cat.

Christina Dimopoulos (PGY3)

  • I'm grateful for boosters, my family, our interns & co-residents who making going to work feel collaborative & fun, and the warm and supportive environment of our program.

Matt Grant (Associate Program Director)

  • Many things but on the heels of the personnel issues this year I want to emphasize I’m thankful for our chief resident group!!!

John Encandela (Associate Director for Curriculum and Educator Assessment, Teaching & Learning Center)

  • …your Program Director notes! 😊 (Aw shucks, John!)

Chang Su (PGY1)

  • I am grateful for my co-interns and seniors who laugh with me, advocate for me, and make me a better physician and person every day.

Daniel Kats (PGY1)

  • I’m thankful for the incredible support I’ve received so far on this journey through residency. I’m thankful to be at a program where we care deeply about each other’s wellbeing, where if I ever have an issue, there are countless people ready to help!

Matheus Simonato dos Santos (PGY1)

  • Thankful for provision, for my wife, family and friends, for my job, for strength in my arms and breath in my lungs.

Lou Levine (PGY2)

  • Thankful for health, as always. Thankful for a safe, in-person Thanksgiving with all the family, love, and good smells and tastes. And forever thankful for my residency family – you know who you are!

Evi Vemmou (PGY1)

  • I am a newcomer to this country but from the many holiday traditions I’ve learned in my new adoptive country, the Thanksgiving is the one that resonates with me the most. I see it as a true holiday for all who chose to come here to pursue their dreams to celebrate being here, to reflect on all our accomplishments, and to ruminate on all the blessings and obstacles on our paths. I am grateful for the good health of my loved ones and myself, the energy of people that surround me, the supportive and nurturing environment, great friends, food and music!

Koeun Choi (PGY2)

  • I'm thankful for vaccinations and going home to see the family. I'm thankful for being able to be in a crowd like the Yale-Harvard football game. I'm thankful for our community. I'm thankful for non-pasta day Wednesdays.

Anonymous (A special residency graduate who asked to remain anonymous)

  • Thanksgiving is one of my absolute favorite times. Of course I love cooking and eating! 😊 And seeing family members – a smaller gathering in these special times –is nothing short of amazing…But there’s so much more to it. We all face ups and downs in life. Thanksgiving is a perfect time to sit, think, be grateful for what we have and wish for better things to come. So many things to be grateful for…
  • And to my wonderful mentors…Many of them still back in Iran… And residency at Yale –. And what a wonderful group of mentors I was lucky to train under… Legendary clinicians…I can go on and on…The common theme that I find –they were incredibly smart, and great at their work, and yet so caring and exemplary in every way. … And my friends, colleagues, classmates –all wonderful clinicians and colleagues, but more importantly friends…During fellowship and advanced fellowship I have had so much to cherish and be thankful for, as well… Many great mentors, friends, and colleagues. Yale has always been the special place for me, though. We were trainees –and the work was of course serious, we had people’s trust in us –the utmost responsibility. And yet, it felt like a huge family, one that was doing its best to help heal the ailments.

Lisa O’Donovan (PGY3)

  • So much to be thankful for! This year, I’m grateful for my health. I’m grateful for my family and friends who continue to provide support, love, and guidance. I’m grateful for our residency program and my co-residents who never cease to amaze me and inspire me. And I’m grateful for my soon-to-be puppy that will be making his way to CT for the holidays!

Michael Fuery (PGY3)

  • I am grateful for amazing co-residents, program leadership and staff, and mentors who make Yale such a wonderful place to train.

Ramya Kaushik (PGY2)

  • I am thankful for my parents who fill my voicemail inbox, my friends who highlight the humor and privilege of residency, and my partner who believes every day can be "Take-out Tuesday."

Ben Rodwin (Associate Program Director)

  • At work: good friends, great colleagues, amazing residents
  • At home: being able to spend thanksgiving with my extended family again this year!

Sarah Marone (PGY3)

  • This year I feel particularly thankful for my family, my very supportive colleagues and friends, and my overall good health.

Ritu Jayakrishnan (PGY1)

  • 2021 has been a big year, and I'm grateful that my wife and I were able to finish med school, get married, and start our lives together! Equally important, I'm grateful for the health of my loved ones (esp. thanks to the vaccine), for the ability to do something I love daily as my job, and for the new family I've gained in residency! I could keep going on and on haha but I just want to take this moment to thank you for giving me an opportunity to be here; I've truly enjoyed my time here so far and I'm so excited for the path ahead!

Saeed Soleymanjahi (PGY1)

  • I’m grateful for being healthy, happy, and having the opportunity to serve people and help them regain their health and happiness. I’m grateful for the phenomenal clinical training in Yale residency program and for the huge support from my senior residents and co-intern colleagues. I’m grateful for the never ending support and courage from my family.

Zeynep Kubilay (Hospitalist, Vanderbilt)

  • I want to share with you that I am and will forever grateful for my training at Yale, how it made me even stronger physician and tireless patient advocate always aiming for patient centered care.

Johnathan Yao (PGY1)

  • I am grateful for friends and family and being part of a residency program that accepts me and values me for who I am. I am grateful to be pursuing a path in life that is in accordance with my personality and my values; that I can wake up every day and genuinely connect with people from all walks of life when they are suffering and how the act of caring for sick patients builds my character and makes me a better a person; that I can never cease to be humbled and moved by bearing witness to the best and worst of humanity; that I can always give my best every day and yet still always be challenged and tested in the quest to hone my craft in the art and science of medicine. That I have health and education and live in a country that is free and a planet that can be so breathtakingly beautiful.
Submitted by Mark David Siegel on November 25, 2021