It wasn’t the way Jeff Cain, MD, FAAFP, wanted to remember his birthday.
“I learned that I was mortal on my birthday in 1996,” Cain says. “One day, I was making the rounds in ICU, visiting a patient. A week later, I woke up on a ventilator in the same bed, in the same room.”
The plane crash that sent Cain to the ICU resulted in the amputation of one leg during that hospital stay, and – many surgeries and years later – also led to the bilateral below-knee amputation of his other leg.
A lifelong athlete, Cain didn’t let the loss of his legs stop him from participating in the host of activities he loves – for example, hiking, swimming, and flying. Among his many accomplishments, he became the first ever Gold Medal winner in Adaptive Slalom at the 2000 U.S. National Snowboarding Championships.
“Participating in sports has taught me that the limits of what people tell you are possible are really yours to discover,” he says.
With a focus on possibilities rather than limits, Cain is taking action now to continue his legacy of innovative leadership with the establishment of a planned gift, designed to expand the AAFP Foundation’s Family Medicine Leads Emerging Leader Institute and enhance medical student and resident leadership development. With a special focus on advocacy, policy, and public health, the gift will support engagement in health equity, diversity (including disability), and tobacco-free education – all topics near and dear to Cain’s heart.
“I’m really excited about the Family Medicine Leads program,” Cain says. “I’d like to see more young residents view their role beyond the office, as advocates for improving healthcare.”
Cain says he put off updating his will and creating this legacy fund, despite the intense awareness of his own mortality and the advice he so often gives others.
“I talk to patients about wills and durable powers of attorney all the time; I tell them it’s important to be intentional,” he says. “But I kept putting it off. It was scary hard, but important. Doing a will and considering your legacy gives you the opportunity to reflect on the panorama of your life. It helps you see what’s important.
“Legacy gifting is part of living intentionally. What kind of ripples do I want to have? What lives on? There are a number of lives I’ve touched in education and in life. I hope some of the gifts I’ve received in life continue to support the kind of work I’ve done.”
Make a ripple. To learn more about legacy gifting, click here to email Mike Armstrong with the Foundation.