Bioethics Blogs

States of Grace: From Doctor to Patient and Back Again

Katie Grogan, DMH, MA and Tamara Prevatt, MA,
Master Scholars Program in Humanistic Medicine, NYU School of Medicine

Dr. Grace Dammann at States of Grace film screening and talkback, NYULMC

Before the accident, Dr. Grace Dammann was a caregiver through and through, in every aspect of her life.
A pioneering AIDS specialist, she co-founded one of the first HIV/AIDS clinics for socioeconomically disadvantaged patients in San Francisco at Laguna Honda Hospital. She was honored by the Dalai Lama with an Unsung Heroes of Compassion Award for her service and devotion to this population. Grace was also the primary breadwinner and parent in her family with partner Nancy “Fu” Schroeder and adopted daughter Sabrina, who was born with cerebral palsy and HIV. She lived and worked in such close proximity to illness, death, and disability, but nothing could have prepared her for the devastating injuries she sustained when a driver veered across the divide on the Golden Gate Bridge, crashing head on into her car.

Grace spent seven weeks in a coma, hovering on the precipice between life and death, like so many of her own patients. Ultimately, she awoke with her cognitive abilities miraculously intact, but her body was irreversibly impaired, leaving her wheelchair-bound and dependent on others for simple daily tasks. States of Grace, a documentary film about her profound transformation, picks up Grace’s story when she is discharged following a thirteen-month stay in rehabilitative hospitals. Members of NYU Langone Medical Center, including medical and nursing students as well as faculty and staff across all disciplines, were invited to attend a screening of the film and talkback with Dr.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.