A Conversation with Trevor Jensen | See previous interviews

Trevor Jensen
Assistant Clinical Professor

Trevor Jensen

Where were you born and raised? Please tell me about your family and a favorite anecdote that describes them.

I was born and raised in Seattle. I am a reasonably outspoken person now, but I was probably the quietest of the family. We are five total. I have one older sister, who trained as a gyn-oncologist here at UCSF but has since moved to Salt Lake City, and one younger sister, who is a middle school teacher in New Delhi.  My mom is a medical ethicist and my dad is a dentist. One thing I always remember is our family dinners, where the conversation was a total free-for-all, and where everyone tried to get a word in edgewise. I was a pretty shy person initially so I had to learn to get my opinion in. The conversations were all over the place ranging from current events to philosophy, but ultimately most things became about politics—we are a political and opinionated family.

How have they have helped shape your direction?

My mother's background is in philosophy, and she works as an ethicist on IRBs reviewing proposals for medical research. Her role as an ethicist, thinking and talking about applied ethics and medical ethics led me to be a Philosophy major in college. And I'm sure that helped shape my pathway.

Was Philosophy an ideological or a practical degree? How has it enhanced your approach to your profession?

That is the classic question people always ask, "What did you plan on doing with that degree?" Well, I went to college thinking that I wanted to learn how to think. Ultimately, there was plenty of time to figure out what I wanted to do eventually so I ended up being pre-med as well. But learning to think was my major goal in college. That was what Philosophy gave me and it has been the most useful skillset that 've gotten to date, in addition to caring for patients. It is useful in my life, in almost everything I do.

You seem to be everywhere, on many health care fronts in global health and in clinical work. Do you pick your causes or do they pick you?

That's something I've thought a lot about this year and over the course of my training. It's a bit of both. I have core interests from a topical standpoint: both in global and public health, and more recently in hospital medicine on a systems basis. Additionally, over the course of my training, I've tried to identify opportunities and projects along the way to help build specific skillsets that I'll use later. As I mentioned in my fellow's talk, I've been trying to build a toolkit for hospital medicine. Life throws lots of curveballs and I am making a pathway that continues to touch on my underlying interests in health, but I want to build skillsets in QI, clinical medicine, epidemiology, and statistics along the way. Now I feel that, if opportunities arise, I can take advantage of them. I am excited about all the opportunities within this division, but it remains one of the hardest challenges to focus on particular issues I care most about.

Is there possibly a sport that you don't enjoy? Who is your favorite team and how big a fan are you?

Swimming is probably the hardest. I feel like I sink more than most people. But there really isn't a sport I don't like. One of the major things I got out of sports, and I think most people do, is leadership and the ability to interact with people, with a team. I was a person at first more inclined to solitary sports, like tennis or cross-country, but my parents, and eventually myself, realized that team sports were probably healthier for me because they made learning how to interact with people more fun. To this day I still prefer playing soccer with friends and groups of people. I was always one of the quieter ones on all my teams growing up, not very vocal but I've come more into my own a bit, maybe from a professional perspective, and sports may be part of it.

I've been in San Francisco for 9 years but I'm a diehard Seattle Seahawks fan. Also, University of Washington Huskies football since I grew up walking to those games with my dad from our house. One of the things I love about being a sports fan is it's sharing the experience, and the emotional bond, with other people.

Of the 51 most beautiful sentences in literature, which is the one closest to your heart? And its source?

Oh man this is a tough one, since it seems tremendous for them to have narrowed it to 51. But I'll pick one from a book that was really important to me growing up and that is: "He was unheeded, happy, and near to the wild heart of life" from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.

Is there an analog part of you or are you completely digital?

I think my whole life is digital, though I'm not sure it's intentional. From a workflow perspective, basically nothing remains analog. On the wards I do everything on my computer that I can, though I've still not found a way to make computer-based checklists HIPAA compliant. I like e-cards over regular cards. I like the immediacy of it—I like that when I think about something, I can get people that information fast. Overall I think the digital life has so much utility. That said, I had a moment the other day when I imagined what would happen if we lost all our data; there'd literally be nothing from the past fifteen years for me. Losing it would be devastating.

Do you live to eat or eat to live?

For most of my life, I ate to live. I grew up too skinny and would actually often forget to eat meals. But now I enjoy eating a lot more, possibly because there is so much good food in this area. My wife is an incredible cook; she mostly cooks Sri Lankan food, which she learned from her mother. The spice profile is similar to South Indian food. There is a rice flour crepe-like dish, called "appam," that you can fry an egg on top of. It's incredible. I enjoy cooking as well, and actually cook most of the time because she is an OB-GYN resident, but she is certainly more talented. We enjoy cooking together whenever we can, and have recently started using a company called Blue Apron.

As a soon-to-be father, will you try to do things differently or be just like dear ol' Dad?

I would love to be like my dad but I don't think that is possible because he is just naturally outgoing, crazy, and gregarious. And, well, I'm not. So I will probably try to approximate as much of him as possible and also draw lessons from the many other important people in my life as I grew up. I don't think my wife and I have a specific set plan… we plan to learn as we go. We'll be reacting as the baby comes and guiding him along—learning how to reinforce important values, wanting him to enjoy life and be thoughtful, patient, reflective, and happy.

Thank you, Trevor!

- by Oralia Schatzman

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