Skip to main content

Pauline W. Chen

Pauline W. Chen was educated at Harvard University and Northwestern University Medical School and completed her general surgery training at Yale University. Dr. Chen is the recipient of numerous awards including the UCLA Physician of the Year Award in 1999 and the George Longstreth Humanness Award at Yale for “most exemplifying empathy, kindness, and care in an age of advancing technology.” Her book, Final Exams: A Young Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality, was published by Knopf in January 2007. Her website is at


An Interview with Pauline W. Chen

March 15, 2007

  Pauline Chen, a transplant surgeon turned essayist, received her first national publication in the pages of VQR. Her essay “Dead Enough? The Paradox of Brain Death,” appeared in the Fall 2005 issue and was later named a finalist for a 2006 Na [...]

The Gross-Out Factor

  In the garden that is the body, there is little as fertile as granulation tissue. It is a fleshy version of the richest topsoil, a vermilion carpeting that appears within a few days of injury and gives rise to new blood vessels and skin. Wounds t [...]

Morbidity and Mortality: A Surgeon Under Exam

If you poke a hole from the belly into the diaphragm and with your fingers clear away the cobweb-like tissues that separate the heart from the spine, there will be just enough space back there to fit your entire arm. And if you put a small incision a [...]

Dead Enough?: The Paradox of Brain Death

Fall 2005 | Essays

 am a transplant and cancer surgeon and in my office, stashed among folders containing notes and old operative reports from my residency, two fellowships, and practice, is a 9 × 12 manila envelope that bulges with small white stickers. Each sticker bears the name and age of one of the 150 brain-dead patients whose organs I have procured.