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In Memoriam: Jessie Gruman

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By Dr. Vikas Saini

I did not know Jessie Gruman for very long, and I met her in person only four times, but I find myself grieving deeply to have lost a friend so soon. From the moment I first saw her, it was instantly clear that she was simply extraordinary.

When we asked her to participate in our last conference in December, she was afflicted with her fourth diagnosis of cancer, undergoing treatment, and unable to travel. Not because she was too frail, but because the vagaries of medical scheduling were too risky to chance. But she leaped at the chance to join us via the web. Rather than talk about our signature issue, overuse, she made precisely the point we wanted to make at that event: that the right care is not a cookbook recipe. We agreed she should talk about how she had demanded a course of care that her doctor didn’t support since he felt it wasn’t likely to be effective. But it was right for her because at that moment what she clearly wanted was every last possibility for every last bit of time.

She wanted to get things done. She did not suffer fools. She was brilliant.

What I loved most about her was her sly sarcasm about stuffed shirts and her utter clarity about what matters most in health care. Whenever we shared tea at one or another bistro in Manhattan I was always entranced by her style and her cheer, her sardonic sense of humor and her crackling, sparking intelligence.