Rev. Lori Koutouratsas is a palliative-care chaplain at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica. Before joining a Zócalo/UCLA panel discussion on end-of-life care—“Does Medicine Know How to Approach Death?”—she talked in the Zócalo green room about growing up as a tomboy, “laser-ing” in conversation, and finding faith as an adult.
You’ve spent most of your life in Southern California. If you had to live somewhere else in America, where would you go?
Probably Northern California. But outside of the state, I don’t know how well I’d do in the snow, but maybe Colorado?
An astronomer recently found evidence of a ninth planet in our solar system. If it’s confirmed, what would you want this planet’s name to be?
The first word that comes to mind is “flourishing”—which is an action, so I need to make it a noun. “Flourish.”
What new language would you like to learn?
Spanish. It’s very much needed.
Would you rather be painted or sculpted by an artist?
Painted. It’s easier to put a painting somewhere. Plus, I’m not sure why, but I automatically assumed I’d have to be naked if someone sculpted me. That’s not true, right?
You spend so much time taking care of others. What are your tricks for taking care of yourself?
I have a membership to a spa. And I play the cello. I’m classically trained, but I also play in rock bands.
What has been one of your greatest challenges?
In conversation, “laser-ing”—getting to the point in a succinct way.
Have you had your faith from an early age, or did you have to find it?
I found it. It was probably there and I didn’t know it. I got baptized when I was 28, and I just got ordained a couple of years ago.
What’s a misconception that people have of chaplains or other religious figures in secular institutions?
There are many. One is that I’m going to impose something, or try to change somebody. Another is that what I do is all about religion. But as a spiritual care provider, I don’t define what I do as religious. It’s about connecting with people. I help them adapt, make meaning. That may or may not include religion. But probably only 10 to 20 percent of chaplains think like this.
Did you have a favorite toy as a child?
I had a little clown doll, but my mom threw it away! Then I got a train set. I was a tomboy.
What three words would your friends use to describe you?
Confident. Passionate. Wise.