Letter from an MS3 to a brain-dead patient

Dear ZT, 

I want to thank you for teaching my what it means to lead a life well lived. I’m sorry we had to meet  under these circumstances, but I truly thank you for being such a light in this world.  

It’s strange to observe how things work in medicine. My superiors separated themselves from anything  that wasn’t your brain, as if distancing ourselves from your life would allow us to provide better medical  advice. In the 24 hours we’ve worked on your case, we’ve referred to you under an assumed name and  birthdate. I didn’t even know your real name until 5 minutes before we spoke to your family.  

When we stepped into the conference room to share the news of your poor prognosis, the sheer  number family packed into that small space- 16 in total- made me realize that you were truly loved.  

As we started talking about religious needs, your wife wasn’t sure whom to call because YOU were the  bishop. This made me realize that you were a man of great consequence, that your story was more than  just your brain injury.  

When I got home yesterday, I started looking you up online. And suddenly you became more than a limp  body in a hospital bed and a damaged brain on a computer screen. I learned that you were a leader in  the business community, passionate about serving others, and that your life philosophy was to take  calculated risks in order to live life to the fullest.  

We met at a curious time in our lives- mine just beginning as yours is just ending. However, if there’s any  consolation from our encounter, it’s that learning more about you has taught me that I cannot continue to live life without striving to be the best person I can be.  

I’ll be honest, medical school has been tough. Over the last few months, I’ve been questioning why I even pursued this path in the first place: Was it to please my parents? Was it to find financial stability? Was it to advance in society? 

Learning about you- and not just your brain- has made me understand that medicine is my calling. Thank you for teaching me that being in medicine is truly an amazing privilege. Because I chose medicine, I get  to experience people, society, and life on a level deeper than any other career. 

Before, I might have said that you’re the kind of man I can only dream of becoming one day. This  morning I finally realized “that day” is today. The future is what we make of it and I owe it to you to  strive to become the best doctor and person I can be.  

Thank you so much.  


Jason Chen

Jason Chen, UUSOM '21 is a second-generation Taiwanese-American from Buffalo, NY and Sandy, UT. He graduated from the University of Utah with Honors in Spanish and Biology, and a minor in International Studies. In his free time, he enjoys maintaining language exchange partners, playing ukulele, and learning about ethnic America.

Rubor Participation:
2020 Prose, "Letter from an MS3 to a brain-dead patient"
2019 Short story, "The Other Yao," web edition
2018 Rubor Staff
2017 Rubor Staff