Susan Stone is a doctor in the Annadel Medical Group, part of the California-based health care system St. Joseph Health. She specializes in emergency medicine and hospice and palliative care. 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 hitting the dance floor, being completely right-brained, and once getting into a fight in a soccer match.
If you could spend all day tomorrow as an animal, which animal would you be?
That’s easy. I would spend the day as my corgi, because she has the perfect life. She has unconditional love, her every need is met, and she gets treats all day.
You got your medical degree on the East Coast, then moved to the Bay Area for a master’s in public health. What was that transition to California like?
It was heavenly. I’ve always been in love with the water, the sand. On the East Coast, I used to go to the Chesapeake Bay, but it was a three-hour drive away.
Where’s your favorite place to spend an afternoon in New York City?
I like to walk around the city. Probably Chelsea and the West Village. They have the High Line.
What’s the strangest job you’ve ever had?
Stuffing envelopes. I sat in an office by myself, and it went against everything about my personality, but it was how I earned money in graduate school.
What do you think is one of the biggest factors that keeps patients from choosing hospice care?
One major one is that there is this overwhelming fear of the end of life. Rather than focusing on our independence, we focus on how much longer we can push things. We don’t consider quality of life.
Death is part of your everyday experience. What’s one thing you do to stay positive?
Perspective. I know I’m very blessed. I have a career that I love, and I have very strong relationships with my family and friends.
Do you consider yourself right-brained (creative) or left-brained (analytical)?
Completely right-brained. I never wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to be an artist. I married somebody in music!
Self-driving cars: Do they excite you or terrify you?
That’s funny, my husband and I just had this conversation. I’m horrified. I’m mechanically inept, and I’d always be scared that it’d malfunction. I’m just not that trusting of technology.
Have you ever broken a bone?
I broke my hand playing soccer when I was a kid. Someone kicked the ball in my face, and I went after her. We got in a fight.
What does it take to get you on the dance floor?
Nothing. I was already there.