Paul Kalanithi

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Paul Kalanithi
BornApril 1, 1977
DiedMarch 9, 2015(2015-03-09) (aged 37)
EducationStanford University (BA, MA)
Darwin College, Cambridge (M.Phil)
Yale Medical School (MD)
SpouseLucy Goddard
Medical career
InstitutionsStanford University School of Medicine

Paul Sudhir Arul Kalanithi (April 1, 1977 – March 9, 2015) was an American neurosurgeon and writer. His book When Breath Becomes Air is a memoir about his life and illness with stage IV metastatic lung cancer. It was posthumously published by Random House in January 2016.[1] It was on The New York Times Non-Fiction Best Seller list for multiple weeks.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Paul Kalanithi was born on April 1, 1977, and lived in Westchester, New York. He was born to a Christian family hailing from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, India. Kalanithi had two brothers, Jeevan and Suman; Jeevan is a computer/robotics engineer and Suman is a neurologist. The family moved from Bronxville, New York, to Kingman, Arizona, when Kalanithi was 10. Kalanithi attended Kingman High School, where he graduated as valedictorian.[3][4]

Kalanithi attended Stanford University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in English literature and a Bachelor of Science in human biology in 2000.[4][5] After Stanford, he attended the University of Cambridge, where he studied at Darwin College and graduated with a Master of Philosophy in the History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine.[5] Although he initially considered pursuing a Ph.D. in English Literature, Kalanithi then attended the Yale School of Medicine, where he graduated in 2007 cum laude, winning the Dr. Louis H. Nahum Prize for his research on Tourette’s syndrome.[6] He was inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha national medical honor society.[5]

At Yale, Kalanithi met fellow medical student Lucy Goddard, who would become his wife.[4]


After graduating from medical school, Kalanithi returned to Stanford to complete his residency training in neurosurgery and a postdoctoral fellowship in neuroscience at Stanford University School of Medicine.[4][5]

In May 2013, Kalanithi was diagnosed with metastatic stage IV non-small-cell EGFR-positive lung cancer.[4][7] He died on March 9, 2015, aged 37.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Kalanithi was married to Lucy (née Goddard), with whom he had a daughter in 2014, Elizabeth Acadia ("Cady").[5][8] Lucy is an associate professor at Stanford University School of Medicine and wrote the epilogue to When Breath Becomes Air.[9][10][11][12] She is the twin sister of Joanna Goddard of the blog A Cup of Jo.[13]

Although Kalanithi was raised in a devout Christian family, he turned away from the faith in his teens and twenties in favor of other ideas.[5] However, he retained "the central values of Christianity — sacrifice, redemption, forgiveness" and returned to Christianity later in his life. In his book, he writes that if he had been more religious in his youth, he would have become a pastor.[5]

He never smoked.[14]


Non-fiction books[edit]


Scholarly articles[edit]

Only first-authored articles are listed below

  • O'Shea DJ*, Kalanithi P*, Ferenczi EA*, Hsueh B, Chandrasekaran C, Goo W, Diester I, Ramakrishnan C, Kaufman MT, Ryu SI, Yeom KW, Deisseroth K, Shenoy KV. Scientific Reports. 2018 Apr 30;8(1):6775. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-24362-7.[19] *Co-first author.
  • Kalanithi, P. S.; Arrigo, R. T.; Tran, P; Gephart, M. H.; Shuer, L; Fisher, R; Boakye, M (2014). "Rehospitalization and emergency department use rates before and after vagus nerve stimulation for epilepsy: Use of state databases to provide longitudinal data across multiple clinical settings". Neuromodulation: Technology at the Neural Interface. 17 (1): 60–4, discussion 64–5. doi:10.1111/ner.12051. PMID 23551457. S2CID 46274667.
  • Kalanithi, P. S.; Henderson, J. M. (2012). "Optogenetic Neuromodulation". Emerging Horizons in Neuromodulation – New Frontiers in Brain and Spine Stimulation. International Review of Neurobiology. Vol. 107. pp. 185–205. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-404706-8.00010-3. ISBN 9780124047068. PMID 23206683.
  • Kalanithi, P. A.; Arrigo, R; Boakye, M (2012). "Morbid obesity increases cost and complication rates in spinal arthrodesis". Spine. 37 (11): 982–8. doi:10.1097/BRS.0b013e31823bbeef. PMID 22037526. S2CID 15167313.
  • Kalanithi, P; Schubert, R. D.; Lad, S. P.; Harris, O. A.; Boakye, M (2011). "Hospital costs, incidence, and inhospital mortality rates of traumatic subdural hematoma in the United States". Journal of Neurosurgery. 115 (5): 1013–8. doi:10.3171/2011.6.JNS101989. PMID 21819196.
  • Kalanithi PS, Patil CG, Boakye M (2009). "National complication rates and disposition after posterior lumbar fusion for acquired spondylolisthesis". Spine. 34 (18): 1963–9. doi:10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181ae2243. PMID 19652635. S2CID 42579192.
  • Kalanithi, P. S.; Zheng, W; Kataoka, Y; Difiglia, M; Grantz, H; Saper, C. B.; Schwartz, M. L.; Leckman, J. F.; Vaccarino, F. M. (2005). "Altered parvalbumin-positive neuron distribution in basal ganglia of individuals with Tourette syndrome". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 102 (37): 13307–12. Bibcode:2005PNAS..10213307K. doi:10.1073/pnas.0502624102. PMC 1201574. PMID 16131542. father. name.


  1. ^ Maslin, Janet (6 January 2016). "Review: In 'When Breath Becomes Air,' Dr. Paul Kalanithi Confronts an Early Death". New York Times. Archived from the original on 11 January 2022. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Print and E-book Nonfiction". New York Times. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  3. ^ Steele, Kim. "Obituary: Paul Kalanithi". Daily Miner. Archived from the original on 23 July 2016. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Spector, Rosanne (11 March 2015). "Paul Kalanithi, writer and neurosurgeon, dies at 37". Stanford Medicine News. Stanford University School of Medicine.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Kalanithi, Paul (27 May 2016). "Paul Kalanithi: Why I gave up on atheism". Fox News. Fox News Network.
  6. ^ Reisz, Matthew (April 2015). "Paul Kalanithi, 1977–2015". Times Higher education. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  7. ^ Kalanithi, Paul (11 January 2016). "My Last Day as a Surgeon". New Yorker. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  8. ^ O'Kelly, Lisa (14 February 2016). "Lucy Kalanithi: "Paul's view was that life wasn't about avoiding suffering"". The Guardian.
  9. ^ "CAP Profile".
  10. ^ Smith, Duncan (25 April 2018). "Lucy Kalanithi: Work, life, grief, love". BMJ: k1220. doi:10.1136/bmj.k1220. S2CID 13850394.
  11. ^ Kalanithi, Lucy (6 January 2016). "My Marriage Didn't End When I Became a Widow". The New York Times.
  12. ^ Stanford University School of Medicine. "Lucy Kalanithi". Stanford University School of Medicine.
  13. ^ Goddard, Joanna (2018-01-03). "An Update on My Twin Sister". A Cup of Jo. Retrieved 2021-01-22.
  14. ^ Br, Michelle (12 February 2015). "For this doctor couple, the Super Bowl was about way more than football". Scope. Retrieved 16 January 2022.
  15. ^ Kalanithi, Paul (2014-01-24). "How Long Have I Got Left?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-12-27.
  16. ^ Kalanithi, Paul (23 February 2015). "Before I Go". Stanford Medicine Magazine. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  17. ^ Kalanithi, Paul (2016-01-11). "My Last Day as a Surgeon". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2016-02-22.
  18. ^ Kalanithi, Paul (2014-03-13). "Remembering Sherwin B. Nuland, the author of How We Die". Retrieved 2016-12-27.
  19. ^ O'Shea, Daniel J.; Kalanithi, Paul; Ferenczi, Emily A.; Hsueh, Brian; Chandrasekaran, Chandramouli; Goo, Werapong; Diester, Ilka; Ramakrishnan, Charu; Kaufman, Matthew T. (2018-04-30). "Development of an optogenetic toolkit for neural circuit dissection in squirrel monkeys". Scientific Reports. 8 (1): 6775. Bibcode:2018NatSR...8.6775O. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-24362-7. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 5928036. PMID 29712920.

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