Jessica N. Zitter, MD, MPH

Jessica ZitterJessica N. Zitter, MD, MPH, is an associate clinical professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), and she practices the unusual combination of Critical and Palliative Care medicine at Highland Hospital, a public hospital in Oakland, Californi

A nationally recognized advocate for change in the way this country addresses terminal care, Dr. Zitter is committed to changing the current paradigm of end-of-life medical decision-making and mainstreaming conversations about death and dying. In today’s medical culture, terminally ill patients are often put on what she calls the “end-of-life conveyor belt,” meaning they are intubated, catheterized, and left to die attached to machines, frequently without even knowing they are dying.

In her work, Dr. Zitter builds bridges between patients and their healthcare team, striving to offer care aligned with each patient’s values and preferences. She has come to see that patients who are empowered with knowledge are best able to die well, even beautifully.

Double board-certified in pulmonary and critical care medicine, and palliative care medicine, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, her medical degree from Case Western Reserve Medical School, and then completed a residency in internal medicine at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School. From there, she went on to a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine at UCSF and earned a master’s degree in public health from the University of California at Berkeley.

A prolific author, Dr. Zitter recently published Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life (2017), and produced and directed the documentary, Caregiver: A Love Story, which highlights the large, unseen and untrained workforce of more than 44 million family caregivers across America through the experiences of one couple. She hopes that in telling this story, it will bring some comfort to so many relatives who are struggling unrecognized to provide care to loved ones, alone, or may soon face this difficult responsibility She is featured in the short documentary Extremis, which won top honors at the Tribeca and San Francisco International Film Festivals and is now streaming on Netflix.

She has also written regularly for the New York Times, and she has published articles in The Atlantic, Time magazine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Washington Post, among other media outlets.

Learn more about her at, and follow her on Twitter @JessicaTwitter.  She has no financial conflicts to disclose.

She lives in Oakland with her husband, three children, and two dogs.

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