Championing Palliative Care

Hearing words like “end of life planning,” “do not resuscitate,” “hospice” and “palliative care” can be threatening, challenging and unforgettable moments for patients and their loved ones.

At NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine, expertise for  these conversations comes from the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine’s geriatricians and palliative medicine physicians who  are called upon to guide these conversations— and with good reason. Trained in the humanity of medicine, geriatricians are skilled listeners and communicators, bringing empathy and compassion to a traumatizing time in patients’ lives. Our  goal is to develop these important skills in all medical trainees.

Division co-chief Dr. Ron  Adelman, Emilie Roy Corey Professor of Geriatrics and Gerontology, founded the Palliative Care Consultation Service in 2005. He realized there were tremendous educational needs in palliative care across disciplines at the medical center. To bring this skill set to nurses and social workers, he partnered with Dory Hottensen, LCSW, and Beth Schack, GNPto create the Palliative Care Champions Program. The program, which involves didactic lectures and clinical mentoring, has trained over 60 social workers and 50 nurses in palliative medicine.

“The depth and breadth of our  Palliative Care initiatives are unique, and the program has grown because the medical center understands that this is a highly valuable service. Our  work greatly improves the lives of patients and families—and provides support for  the medical staff,” says Dr. Adelman. “We have been fortunate to receive additional funding from a variety of sources, including families who  have benefited for our  services. Because of them, palliative care has become available to more and more patients.”

Dr. Milagros Silva and Dr. Anna Hennon are prime examples of young doctors who have recently grown our  core staff of palliative care providers. After finishing their palliative care fellowships, they joined our  interdisciplinary palliative care team. Doing  a fellowship in palliative medicine is becoming quite popular for  geriatricians and physicians trained in other sub-specialties, most recently nephrology. In addition to training hospital staff, medical residents at Weill Cornell participate in a palliative medicine curriculum taught by our  faculty. Medical students are exposed to palliative medicine during the first year curriculum and some medical students have additional exposure during the Division’s intensive summer research program in aging. Medical students become prepared to take their enhanced understanding of palliative care with them wherever their careers may lead—and it is our  hope that they become educators in their own  right.

Where does Dr. Adelman see the future of Palliative Medicine? “We’d like to grow until we are able to care for  all patients who  need us. It is a big goal, but with our growing team, and with innovative educational programs such as the Palliative Care Champions program, we can make sure that palliative medicine is available to all who might benefit.”

Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medicine New York, NY