The Optimized Doctor

Life is beautiful


A crimson November San Diego sunset over the Pacific Ocean. Seeing your parents dance on their 50th wedding anniversary. A stein of cold Oktoberfest beer. Your car, freshly detailed. Your name written in black ink on a Starbucks Pumpkin Latte. A nicely everted surgical wound.

The smile on your daughter’s face when descending the stairs after a huge trick-or-treat score. A perfectly arranged Mayo stand, oh, exactly as you like it. An empty EMR in basket. A flap close on the nose that closes just so.

A Red Sox World series win (again). Lollipop lamb chops sizzling on the grill on a chilly Saturday tailgating morning. The answer to 14 down that leads to all the other answers you’ve desperately been trying to solve. The “ting” sound that Mimosa glasses make toasting Sunday brunch with friends. The next episode of Black Mirror launching automatically. A brilliant orange maple tree against a brilliant blue sky. The fissures on the crust of a still-warm loaf of Italian bread.

An elderly woman, her husband, daughter, and son-in-law who waited weeks and traveled miles to see you because they know you care. And they insist on seeing only you. A man who comes to see you without his wife this time just because he wanted to tell you in person how much they appreciated your care for her in the end. Opening your mailbox to see the September issue of Vogue, waiting for you to tear off the plastic. An as-yet-untouched Sunday New York Times. The sound of wood popping in the fireplace. The string of melted marshmallow down your son’s arm still attached to a s’more at the other end. 7-7-7 on your dollar slot at the casino. Eight-year-old girls at the center of the field celebrating a Sunday morning soccer victory. Departures showing your flight, gate 8, on time.

The smell of incense. The smell of lightly roasting garlic and olive oil. The smell of your wife’s perfume. The smell of wet leaves. The smell of your favorite scented candle. The smell of burning firewood on an early-morning walk in the Rockies. Snow falling. Snow crunching under your feet. Snow melting.

Dr. Jeffrey Benabio, director of Healthcare Transformation and chief of dermatology at Kaiser Permanente San Diego.

Dr. Jeffrey Benabio

Remembering the uproarious laughter after your belly flop into the pool back in July. Steph Curry shooting a 3 in slow motion. Snoopy floating over 5th Avenue on Thanksgiving morning. The sound of wrapping paper being stuffed into garbage bags when the opening is done. A prior auth letter of approval. The feeling when you turn that first page of a brand-new Stephen King book. The feel of the grip on your fairway wood. Seeing your favorite movie pop up on Amazon Prime. The head massage your stylist gives you when washing your hair. The near pain of a really good massage.

The warmth of a child on your lap. The bark your dog gives when he sees you for the first time today as if it has been a million years. The crack of your favorite beer can opening. The ding when your microwave popcorn is ready. That warm feeling when you realize that, no, you don’t need any filter for that picture, it is ready to post exactly the way it is. The smile on your medical assistant’s face when you hand her a gratitude card. The ping that an email makes when you’re dying to hear back. The pride you feel when you execute a downward-facing dog and the instructor tells everyone to do it just like you. The smell of balsam fir. A podcast episode so good, you sit in your driveway to finish listening. A patient with a delightful British accent. The feel of pasta dough in your hands after adding just the right amount of flour and water so it’s now ready to go. Watching the Red Sox win the World Series (Wait, did I say that already?). The sound of your laptop keyboard clicking away while you write this piece. The feeling that 2019 is going to be your best year ever.

So what are the beautiful things in your life? Sit down right now and list a few (or a lot) of them. I promise it will be a more beautiful place where you are when you’re done.

Dr. Benabio is director of Healthcare Transformation and chief of dermatology at Kaiser Permanente San Diego. The opinions expressed in this column are his own and do not represent those of Kaiser Permanente. Dr. Benabio is @Dermdoc on Twitter. Write to him at

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