Laura Shoemaker ’92, D.O., has built her career on some of life’s most poignant moments. They’re the intimate moments at the end of a life, when loved ones sitting vigil speak in hushed tones. When making the patient comfortable is the premier goal. When tears are often plentiful.
Formerly a medical director at Hospice of the Western Reserve, Dr. Shoemaker has worked in the Cleveland Clinic’s Hospice and Palliative Medicine Program since 2013. As a hospital consultant, Shoemaker works with patients with cancer, lung disease and other complex illnesses, helping them manage their symptoms and alleviate their pain.
“Usually there are things I can do to make them more comfortable, but I can also do things like minimize fear and give them relief emotionally when I can’t give them relief physically,” Shoemaker says.
Communication – both with patients and their loved ones – is a chief component of Shoemaker’s job. On any given day she talks to terminally ill patients about their prognosis, their values or their wishes. She acts as a liaison between patients and medical teams. And she coordinates interdisciplinary care with nurses, chaplains and more.
Shoemaker considers it a privilege to work so closely with those who are scared and vulnerable. “I feel like I get to do every day what I went to medical school to do, which is to make people feel better,” says Shoemaker, who received her degree in osteopathic medicine from Ohio University in 2002. “I also like the social piece – connecting with people and supporting them as they walk that journey of illness.”
While her work has inherently sad moments, “in no way is it depressing,” Shoemaker says. “It’s often life affirming.”
Which skill helps you most on the job?
Being a good listener. It enables me to respond to people’s concerns in the best possible way. The medical piece is huge, but there’s more value to everyone involved with the social aspect of the job.
What do you do in your free time?
I spend it with my family. I have been married to my husband, Mayur Panpya, for 11 years. He is a psychiatrist at the Cleveland Clinic. We have a son, Sameer, 7, and a daughter, Sara, 4.
What is one quality you’d like to impart to your children?
Where do you feel most comfortable?
At home with my kids and husband
What’s something that stands out about your parents?
Their commitment to education
What is your greatest indulgence?