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A Conversation with Matt Gonzales | See previous interviews

Matt Gonzales
Assistant Clinical Professor

Matt Gonzales

Were you dreading that I might ask you for an interview?

On some level I was dreading it but I do think it is important to get to know people. Because of my work in Palliative Care, I don’t get to know as many of the others in the division as well as I’d like, or they, me.

You have been on an intense service for almost two straight weeks, haven’t you? How do you replenish the source?

I think that is one of the most important things to come out of my fellowship: how to take care of oneself. When I was a resident, I didn’t fully appreciate how deeply our work affected me. Then, in August of my fellowship year, I had somewhat of a breakdown because there was so much suffering and grief that I couldn’t access my emotions. The PCS team is phenomenal and they, particularly Deenah Joseph, taught me and gave me resources and tools: knowing that there is a team and talking with them, journaling, and, most useful, is meditation. I spend 30–40 minutes daily meditating. One of the great things about the fellowship here is that the curriculum for self-care was built in when the first cohort realized that everyone was feeling this need and Steve Pantilat was fully supportive.

I appreciate some of the clips you’ve referred on Twitter. Was it a natural inclination to communicate that got you started or did you go kicking and screaming?

Kicking and screaming! I did not think that Twitter would be something that I would ever do. I find it useful to keep up with articles in the field and follow key people to get quick updates. It’s a great medium to share things that are important to me. It is still not natural to me to tweet, I have to work at it. Sharing my thoughts isn’t innate; I need to take things in and process on my own but I am getting better about disseminating my thoughts. However, I enjoy texting a lot and find it an easy way to communicate. I like to stay in touch but find it hard when I am in the hospital so I can still wish someone a happy birthday or just say hi.

When was your last vacation and where will be your next ideal, real, vacation?

My last was way too long ago! I took a few days in December to visit family in Oregon over the holidays. I am thinking of Spain, Thailand, or Brazil as my top three destinations at the moment. The last time I was in Barcelona, I spent the entire time working on a slide set for my boss but that probably doesn’t count. South America is the only continent that I’ve never been to, except Antarctica (which I won’t go to so it doesn’t count) so I’m thinking I should complete the continents and go to Machu Pichu.

Would you share something about your family? Where in the hierarchy are you?

My grandparents all were from Mexico and emigrated here. My parents were both born in L.A. I grew up there and I still love it. I love Northern California and appreciate it, but I am nostalgic about Southern California. It is the place that I grew up and where I know things like my schools and my old shortcuts (which probably don’t work anymore). My mom worked for an airline selling tickets, which was great because we got to travel a lot. She is very giving and dedicated and prioritizes her family, always making sure we are cared for and loved. My younger brother, Mark, is a pilot for Horizon Airlines and he flies all over the Pacific Northwest. My dad is a protector; he was a police officer and detective. I am a combination of both and I sometimes feel that what I do and what my dad did have similarities: we both have to figure out who the bad guy is, or what.

Other PCS colleagues have described the work you do as a privilege and a joy. Please describe your feelings.

It is an honor. I feel that what I do allows me the chance to be present with people at a very important moment in their life. It is such an honor to be let in when someone really needs you. It is phenomenal when people share very personal moments, or memories, photos, or even food. I am a stranger to them but being let in, really, that connection is what allows us to do what we do. We were taught in med school not to connect, not to become involved, but I think that is the wrong answer for medicine. I think the right answer is connecting and being willing to be there. It is an honor to be let in during the last moments.

Have you seen any of the recent blockbuster films? What kinds of films do you typically have in your Netflix queue?

The most recent movie I saw was The Hobbit. It was good but not as good as the trilogy. My Netflix queue, oh, I’ve been obsessively watching a TV show called The Killing. It’s great! It’s a whodunit that is very well done, based on a Danish TV show, about the murder of a teenage girl and each episode is a 24-hour period of the investigation, somewhat like a drawn-out Law and Order over two seasons. I finished 26 episodes in two weeks. It’s so good!

If you were invited to a karaoke party, what type of music would bring out your hidden rocker? Or crooner? 

I did theater in high school and sang in the choir in Catholic school. When we were young, my brother and I rocked out to Frank Sinatra, put on old records, and somehow that’s still oddly appealing, songs like Luck Be a Lady Tonight. A little Michael Jackson never hurt either.

Cook at home or take-out?

I love to cook. I just joined a CSA, Community Sponsored Agriculture, where you get delivery from a farm to a central location and get a box of … whatever. What’s fun is that you have to be creative. This week, the box included leeks, Brussels sprouts, cilantro, fava greens, gold and purple top turnips, and green cauliflower—that’s a lot of veggies so I have to invent something new every week. Last week I made a butternut squash risotto with pearled barley and a Brussels sprouts pizza with a pesto made from the greens. It’s my creative outlet. I’m more a recipe follower but I can also be inventive. I like pushing my boundaries.

What other boundaries are you pushing?

I tend to be an internal person but I am trying to be more “out there,” more physical. I recently went rock climbing for the first time, something I expressly said that I would never do, and it was a phenomenal experience.

Matt, this was delightful. Thank you for sharing.

- by Oralia Schatzman

View Matthew's professional bio | See previous faculty interviews