Meet Michael Pottash, MD, MPH

Michael Pottash
Headshot of Michael Pottash

Michael Pottash, MD, MPH is a physician, expert in palliative care and clinical ethics, and program director of the Medstar Washington Hospital Center Interprofessional Palliative Care Fellowship Program.

Dr. Pottash studied public health, then medicine in Israel at the Technion, did his residency in internal medicine with a primary care track (with a focus on psychosocial medicine), and completed fellowships in palliative care and clinical ethics. Those experiences have provided him with a critical understanding of the medical practice: of the systemic and social justice issues underlying the social determinants of health, the overreach of modern medicine, the speed with which medical technologies are developed, how medical knowledge is acquired and used, and the failings in communicating with patients and families in a compassionate way.

He started teaching early in his career, when he worked for two years as substitute teacher for school-aged students, from primary school to high school. As associate professor of clinical medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine, he has taught subjects that include The Problem of Suffering, Ethics of Research with Human Subjects and Medicine, Law, and Ethics at the End of Life. His classes challenge the students’ preconceived notions about medicine and health care, creating a space for engaging and meaningful conversations.
Dr. Pottash is the author of the Better healthcare blog, and has been a contributor of the Pallimed blog and KevinMD. His research on palliative care, clinical ethics and communication appears in various leading medical journals.

Featured media appearances

Cover of Michael Pottash's article The Limits of Advance Care Planning, on the Pallimed blog

“The Limits of Advance Care Planning”, Dr. Michael Pottash’s Perspective on Pallimed

November 22nd, 2021

In this piece published on the Pallimed blog, Michael Pottash responds to the case against advance care planning, arguing that a better framework for thinking about these future-oriented conversations is training clinicians to have Serious Illness Conversations with their patients before they end up in the final stage or in intensive care.…

Human silhouette sitting on the floor, with their arms over their knees. The body of this silhouette seems fragmented, and some of the pieces are separating from them

Ethicslab Podcast: Psychiatric Disability and Life Threatening Non-Adherence, featuring Dr. Carol Taylor, Dr. Michael Pottash, Dr. Laura Guidry-Grimes and Dr. Sarah Kleinfeld

December 27th, 2018

In the Ethicslab podcast, Dr. Carol Taylor, Dr. Michael Pottash, Dr. Laura Guidry-Grimes and Dr. Sarah Kleinfeld reflect on the stories of patients with psychiatric disability, who face end-of-life situations after prolonged non-adherence to a medical treatment plan. The guests offer their ethical reflections on the challenges, naming the components of complexity, and what is important for ethics committee members to pay attention to in patient stories like these.…

Featured scholarship

“Practicing Serious Illness Conversations in Graduate Medical Education”

June 3rd, 2020

Dr. Michael Pottash and his co-authors address the lack of routine practice opportunities in medical training to have a serious illness conversation, including discussing patients’ expectations, concerns, and preferences regarding an advancing illness. By testing incorporating a serious illness conversation into routine trainee practice, they found that trainees found it to be an important addition to their routine practice. Patients found the conversation to be important, reassuring, and of better quality than their usual visits.…

Bone marrow transplant patient gets a routine checkup

“Post-Transplantation Palliative Care: Misconceptions and Disincentives”

January 15th, 2018

Dr. Michael Pottash argues for the value of providing palliative care to transplant recipients, which faces two major barriers: misconceptions about the goals of palliative care, and the quality care outcome measures that have the unintended consequence of disincentivizing its routine use.…

Collage of post-its under the title "Diagnostic tools". The post-its say "There's too much jargon and no one to explain", "Suggestions/consulting leaves me confused", "Internet tools symptom/disease tools scare people, they always think they have the worst/least likely disease", and "Who to go to -correct level, -expertise, -self-service triage"

“Poor Prognostication: Hidden Meanings in Word Choices”

April 21st, 2017

The absence of a standardised language to express prognostic information can be a barrier for providing realistic information to patients and their families. The team of researchers that includes Dr. Michael Pottash and Dr. Hunter Groninger surveyed a random sample of internal medicine attending physicians and residents to better determine perception of word choice related to documentation of patient prognosis and hospice eligibility in the medical record.…

Featured event appearances

Diagram of a circular flow chart showing that body, mind, sould and spirit are connected

The Good Life at the End of Life

September 20th, 2021

Discussion on medical and spiritual views on the meaning of the good life during the last stages of life. Speaking to the issue were Devan Stahl (Bioethics and Religion, Baylor University) and Michael Pottash (Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Georgetown University).…