Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was a Swiss-born American physician who made major contributions to the field of psychiatry. As a teenager, she left home to volunteer around Europe and help communities devastated by World War II. After she received her medical degree in 1957, Kübler-Ross moved to the US, where she worked in Chicago as an assistant professor of psychiatry at Billings Hospital. It was during her work with psychiatric patients that Kübler-Ross started focusing on the treatment of terminally ill and dying patients suffering from end-of-life anxiety or depression, who she felt were overlooked by many doctors.
Kübler-Ross changed the way people talked about death by advocating for improved transparency, communication, and care at the end of life. In 1969, she published one of the most important psychological studies of the 20th century, On Death and Dying. In the book, she described the five stages of grief in those who are dying: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The five stages, or the Kübler-Ross model, became an important tool for professionals to better understand and treat dying patients. Kübler-Ross and her contributions have had a lasting impact on the field of psychiatry. And we’re all better people for it.