Tufts Medical Center
“I have worked in healthcare for over 40 years and have worked with many outstanding doctors. Dr. Vesel is an example of what is best in healthcare,” said one colleague.
Tamara Vesel, MD, is a palliative care physician at Tufts Medical Center (TMC). In this role, she cares for a wide variety of patients, from neonatal infants and children to young adults, pregnant women, and elderly patients both in the hospital and at home. Several years ago, she created a new division of palliative care at TMC.
She noted disparities in the treatment of serious illnesses and end-of-life care in the Chinese immigrant community, a major patient population group of TMC. Dr. Vesel researched and piloted strategies to overcome these challenges through civic engagement, communication and education. She led a series of workshops with elderly Chinese-American patients to promote discussion and learning around advance care planning, palliative care, and bereavement. Even over Zoom, Dr. Vesel was able to create an inviting and safe space for community members to discuss and reflect on sensitive, often uncomfortable topics. The success of this program has led to its expansion to other underserved populations.
She also prioritizes caring for her colleagues. She was integral in reviving the Schwartz Rounds program at TMC and has served as a member of the institutional taskforce to enhance clinicians’ well-being during the pandemic. Dr. Vesel also shares her expertise with medical students. “Dr. Vesel embodies the qualities that I most admire in a caregiver and aspire to emulate myself,” said one medical student; “The more time that I have spent in hospitals and clinics as a student, witnessing the many ways that clinical work can demoralize and depersonalize healthcare providers, the more impressed I am by Dr. Vesel’s sensitive and warm-hearted approach to care.”
There are many stories illustrating Dr. Vesel’s compassionate approach to medicine. In one, she visited a post-op patient who was so weak and heavily bandaged that he had to use a small microphone placed by his mouth just to be heard. “Tamara led the way into the room and the first words out of her mouth were, ‘You look like you need a hug,’” said a colleague. She managed to gently give him a hug; said her colleague, “In all of my considerable years as a physician I had never witnessed anything like that. In some ways, such a simple act. But so powerful. No words were needed and yet it meant the world to that young man.”
In another story, Dr. Vesel helped a colleague care for her dying husband in their home, going so far as to arrange for a volunteer to write down stories from his childhood. “When the time came for hospice, she stood right by me and was there every second of the day,” said the colleague. “She calmed me and found a way — whether it was a suction machine or soothing music — to help decrease his suffering… Dr. Vesel epitomizes compassion, caring and dedication to her patients and to her craft.”