What I Like to talk About

Just over a decade ago, Shari Bookstaff had a benign brain tumor that practically destroyed her life. She spent months in the hospital, regaining basic human functions such as eating, walking and talking. Today, Shari continues to improve. Although she has many ongoing challenges, Shari has not allowed these physical difficulties to rule her life. Instead, she uses her unique perspective to help medical professionals turn a moment of genuine care into a lifetime of positive impact! Her presentations have helped hundreds to become better practitioners. 

She is using her horrific life-altering medical traumas to contribute something positive to the world of medicine. Shari was not always treated well (nicely) by medical professionals and it is her mission to share her story and inspire them to work hard to connect with their patients with empathy.

My Background

Shari Bookstaff is a biology professor turned brain surgery patient who gives presentations to medical professionals teaching them how to connect to their patients in an instant. Shari grew up in Wisconsin, the only nice Jewish girl on her block dreaming of becoming a marine biologist. She fulfilled her dreams, and was thriving in her career as a tenured biology professor at Skyline College. Her kids, 12 and 8, were doing well in school and blossoming into awesome young people. Then, BAM: a benign brain tumor practically derailed her life. Shari lost virtually all of her basic human functions. A planned 9-day hospital stay turned into 9 months of grueling rehabilitation. She has worked hard every day since to regain her dignity, her livelihood, and her spirit. Shari is living proof that determination, hard work, and positivity are the cornerstones to overcoming tragedy.

She’s been a superb advocate for the protection of marine animals all her life. She founded the SF Chapter of the American Cetacean Society and continues to work with this organization to educate people about the magnificent whales, dolphins and porpoises that she loves so much. In addition, Shari helps run Expanding Your Horizons, a conference for 6th-12th grade girls that promotes women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. This event has made a huge impact in the lives of 1000’s of young women over the past 35 years.

Before her brain surgery, Shari was an active biology professor, walking and talking without difficulty. She supervised marine mammal field projects, gave dynamic lectures, and walked on the beach regularly. After her life changed forever due to surgical complications, her body lacked coordination and balance, making walking difficult. Partial paralysis of her face and vocal cords made speaking difficult.

Shari has experienced great medical care, and some not-so-great medical care. She is determined to help as many health professionals as possible instantly connect with their patients to provide great care. She has so far inspired hundreds of professionals and students to be the best they can be. She is a member of The Beryl Institute, an organization dedicated to improving the patient experience. 


Audiences include:

•Association of periOperative
Registered Nurses
•College of San Mateo
•Kaiser Permanente
•Skyline College
•University of San Francisco



Pacifica, California




I am a biology professor turned brain surgery patient who gives presentations to medical professionals teaching them how to connect to their patients in an instant.

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