Written by Stacey Burling.
Stephen Trzeciak’s obsession with compassion started with his son’s seventh-grade cultural geography assignment three years ago.
The son asked the father, a critical-care doctor at Cooper University Hospital, for help with a speech that would count for half his grade. Trzeciak saw a father-son bonding opportunity. Then he read the formidable question his 12-year-old was expected to answer: What is the most pressing problem of our time?
His son had made a good start, but Trzeciak knew young Christian’s heart wasn’t in the topic he’d picked. If he didn’t really believe this problem was important, his classmates wouldn’t either, Trzeciak advised him. His son gave it more thought, picked a different problem and won his audience.
That wasn’t the end of it for Trzeciak, though. A “research nerd,” his own work had centered on topics like surviving blood infections and heart attacks or life after intensive care. Important, yes, but these things were not, Trzeciak admitted to himself, the most pressing problems of our time. What could he be more passionate about?
After months of mulling, he concluded the biggest problem in medicine was obvious: “We have a compassion crisis.”
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