For PEP colleagues familiar with her journalistic work in New York’s Capital Region, having the opportunity to collaborate with Claire Hughes is a real privilege. The former Times Union reporter, whose byline always signaled an objective, well-written article, joined the Patient Experience Project in 2018.
Yet (spoiler alert!), as you’ll start to see in Claire’s answers below, the best part of working with Claire is found not in her reputation for being intelligent and a talented writer—she lives up to it, btw—but in her kind heart and thoughtful personality.
What do you find rewarding about working at PEP?
The most rewarding work has been the pieces I know will help patients by distilling something complicated about their disease or treatment into something that they can manage.
My most fun project to date was a storybook for young children with a rare disease called cystinosis. The story is about an enthusiastic youngster at school one day, with facts about his disease woven into the fabric of his regular activities. I hope children with cystinosis will feel reassured listening to a story about someone just like them and that the book helps families explain the disease to others.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
I had the chance in my previous job as a health journalist to interview alternative medicine advocate Deepak Chopra. He described stress as a construct that doesn’t exist without your creating it. Life presents challenges, but you can choose to accept and address them rather than feel stressful about them. It’s an internal choice.
I would distill Chopra’s advice to something like this: Stress is a choice that you don’t have to make just because events are “stressful.” On good days, I can follow it.
What is your personal mantra in life?
Listen to yourself and to others, and be honest.
Do you have any secret skills or talents?
I make a mean eggplant parmesan. Also, I can still manage a passable roundhouse kick from my days practicing karate, though I refuse to do it in work clothes.
Describe how you like to spend time outside of work.
Enjoying the company of family and friends, especially doing something relaxing outdoors or taking in a theatrical performance. Depending on the week, I like things that either help me quiet down or make me think.