Care for patients at the end of life has long troubled American medicine, not only in its failure to provide good palliative care, but also in the relationship between doctors and patients. Many efforts to remedy this situation have emerged: a growing and strengthening palliative care movement, better understanding of the situation of patients at the end of life, a sharper focus on the values and behavior of physicians in their care of the dying, and a more general effort to gain medical recognition that end-of-life care is just as important as care during all other phases of life. Great progress has been made, but there is still a distance to go. As the number and percentage of people who die from chronic and degenerative diseases increase, the physician skills and virtues necessary to provide good end-of-life care also increase.
The aim of The Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards is to foster those skills and virtues by providing financial prizes to those physicians, young and old, who have shown their care of patients to be exemplary, a model of good medicine for other physicians, and a great benefit in advancing the centrality of end-of-life care as a basic part of the doctor-patient relationship.
There are five annual prizes totaling $95,000; one prize of $25,000 for a senior physician; one prize of $25,000 for a mid-career physician and three prizes of $15,000 for early-career physicians.
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- Catherine D. Deamant, MD
- Chris Feudtner, MD, PhD, MPH
- Elise C. Carey, MD, FAAHPM
- Jeanette S. Ross, MD, AGSF, FAAHPM
- Nadia Tremonti, MD
David N. Korones, MD
The 2015 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the senior physician category honor David N. Korones, MD, professor of pediatrics, oncology, and neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. The selection committee cited his success in advancing palliative care for children with brain tumors, as well as his work caring for children with cancer in Ethiopia and Russia. “David provides the highest level of biological, psychological, social, and spiritual care available,” the committee wrote.
Dr. Korones’s focus on treating children and adults with brain tumors taught him the importance of integrating the principles of palliative care into his practice. He founded the pediatric palliative care program at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Golisano Children's Hospital in 2005, and he remains its director. The program has grown to serve about 200 children a year. Dr. Korones also directs the pediatric brain tumor program. He is an attending physician on the adult palliative care service and was the first director of the university’s Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship program. He is also the lead physician consultant at CompassionNet, a community-based pediatric palliative care program in upstate New York.
Dr. Korones “has a lot of experience and knowledge at technical levels in oncology, but what really singles him out is his ability to engage with patients and their families and help them make good medical decisions in challenging circumstances,” wrote Timothy E. Quill, MD, FACP, FAAHPM, the Georgia and Thomas Gosnell Distinguished Professor in Palliative Care and Professor of Medicine, Psychiatry, and Medical Humanities at the University of Rochester, in support of his nomination.
Since 1995, Dr. Korones has been a member of the Brain Tumor Committee of the Children’s Oncology Group, working on several brain tumor studies in children. He is a member of several professional groups on cancer and pediatrics and is a fellow of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. He has worked with groups of physicians who bring pediatric oncology services and palliative care to children in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Novgorod, Russia.
Dr. Korones has won numerous local awards for his service to the children and families of Rochester. In 2008 was named to the Gold Humanism Honor Society, which recognizes doctors and medical students who are exemplars of humanistic patient care. Erin Denney-Koelsch, MD, an assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of Rochester, writing in support of his nomination, said that Dr. Korones “gives the speechless a voice, facilitates parents and children talking about the unspoken, and seems to be always available for his patients.”
Dr. Korones received his medical degree from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 1983.
Bruce E. Condit, MD, FHM
The 2015 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the mid-career category honor Bruce E. Condit, MD, FHM, medical director of palliative care and an attending physician at the Central Maine Medical Center and medical director of Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice, an outpatient hospice team, both in Lewiston . The selection committee commended him for “creating something from nothing” by bringing palliative care to urban and rural Maine.
Dr. Condit knew little about palliative care during his residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston until he discovered that one of his clinic patients had died at home with hospice services. Around that time, his interest in palliative care was sparked further when he met an ethicist-physician who exemplified the ways that many clinicians practiced palliative care without a specific designation, and yet with great care and compassion. Dr. Condit returned to his home state of Maine as the first hospitalist at Central Maine Medical Center. He then established the first palliative care program in the region. Under his leadership, it has grown from one full-time clinician to an interdisciplinary team that sees 678 patients a year.
Dr. Condit continues to work as both a hospitalist and a palliative care provider, finding that each role informs the other “in wonderful ways.” “Unlike my patients in my Boston residency, rural Mainers were much more open to the reality that there are conditions that we can’t survive and that pursuing care at all costs and dignity in dying are sometimes at odds with each other,” he said. “I’m sure that in those early days I learned much more about end-of-life care from my patients than they did from me, and they helped me to recognize and develop the role that a hospitalist can play for patients dealing with progressive chronic conditions, especially as they approach dying. As a hospitalist, I continue to enjoy this challenge in helping patients decide for themselves when the burdens of treatment outweigh the benefits, and how to take comfort in deciding when enough is enough.”
Jacqueline P. Fournier, NP, C. AHPN, who nominated Dr. Condit, praised his character, saying that his “small town Maine roots laid the groundwork for the practitioner/healer he would become.” She continued, “He exudes competence in an inviting way and he listens, inspiring others. Bruce leads by encouragement and example.”
Dr. Condit received his medical degree from the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 2000.
Shaida Talebreza Brandon, MD, FAAHPM, HMDC
The 2015 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the early career physician category honor Shaida Talebreza Brandon, MD, FAAHPM, HMDC, a geriatrician and palliative care specialist at the George E. Wahlen Salt Lake City Veterans Affairs Medical Center and medical director of Inspiration Hospice, a hospice and palliative care teaching site for the University of Utah. The selection committee praised her work with home-based primary care of veterans.
Dr. Talebreza works closely with the VA National Center for Ethics in Health Care to develop new practices for ensuring that the values, goals, and life-sustaining treatment decisions of seriously ill patients are elicited, documented, and honored. She serves on the National VA Life-Sustaining Treatment Decisions advisory board and co-chairs the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System advisory board, which oversees the testing of new practices.
Dr. Talebreza strives to promote geriatric palliative care education nationally by serving on the American Geriatrics Society/Association of Directors of Geriatric Academic Programs education committee and project leader of Geriatrics Evaluation and Management Tools, an educational publication. She is co-chair of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine 2015 Hospice Medical Director Conference. She received the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources Geriatric Academic Career Award for 2010-2015 for developing a geriatric palliative care curriculum.
Eric Widera, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine, division of geriatrics at the University of California San Francisco (and a winner of one of the 2011 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards), nominated Dr. Talebreza, saying that she “is the type of palliative care clinician that I, and many others, would want if we developed a serious illness.” In support of her nomination, Timothy W. Farrell, MD, AGSF, of the University of Utah School of Medicine, wrote that she “is a calming, comforting presence and incorporates outstanding active listening techniques coupled with reflective practice that both lead to exemplary communication with patients and families during what can often be extremely vulnerable and frightening periods in their lives”.
Dr. Talebreza received her medical degree from the University of Utah School of Medicine in 2002.
Mary K. Buss, MD, MPH
The 2015 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the early career category honor Mary K. Buss, MD, MPH, a medical oncologist and palliative medicine specialist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, where she built and directs the outpatient palliative care clinic. The selection committee noted that she has “altered the perception of palliative care within the institution” and cited “her role as an important bridge between oncology and palliative care.”
Dr. Buss joined the palliative care service at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in 2007 and in 2013 she launched the outpatient palliative care clinic, staffed by a multidisciplinary team. The clinic sees patients referred with complicated symptoms, psychosocial/spiritual distress, and complex medical decision-making needs. Dr. Buss received the 2014 Katherine Swan Ginsburg Faculty Award, which recognizes a department of medicine faculty member for being an effective and inspiring role model for clinical care and humanism in medicine.
Mark Aronson, MD, interim chief for the division of general medicine and primary care at Beth Israel Deaconess, who nominated Dr. Buss, commended her for supporting the growth and development of palliative care at their institution. “When she first joined our faculty, the palliative care consultation service was staffed by a nurse practitioner and a part-time social worker with occasional physician oversight,” she wrote. “Dr. Buss and another faculty member were the first physicians to regularly see palliative care consults in the hospital. Dr. Buss’s hard work and that of her colleagues quickly altered the perception of palliative care within the institution and improved understanding of what palliative care can provide for patients and families.”
Nationally, Dr. Buss has served on the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine’s cancer special interest group, which is dedicated to collaboration between palliative and oncology. As a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology palliative care steering committee, Dr. Buss is helping to define core palliative care competencies specific to oncologists.
Dr. Buss received her medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine in 1997.
Laura M. Iglesias Lino, MD
The 2015 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the early career category honor Laura M. Iglesias Lino, MD, medical director for geriatrics and palliative care at Brightwood Health Center and associate medical director for hospice at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass. The selection committee praised her for her leadership and for using her skills in geriatrics and palliative care to help Spanish-speaking and other immigrant populations in Springfield.
Since early in her career, Dr. Iglesias Lino has found working with vulnerable populations especially rewarding. Naturally drawn to caring for the elderly, she completed her fellowship in geriatrics and saw the need for palliative care in many of her frail and frequently homebound patients. Her response was to pursue board certification in hospice and palliative care.
Dr. Iglesias Lino has focused on advancing the care for vulnerable geriatric patients through the development and implementation of innovative projects, including interdisciplinary teaching of palliative care and geriatrics and individualized care plans for homebound elders with advanced dementia. She is working on a project to increase support to caregivers through informational support group meetings tailored to the community at Brightwood Health Center.
Maura Brennan, MD, interim chief for the division of geriatrics and palliative care at Baystate Medical Center, who nominated Dr. Iglesias Lino, commended the care that she has given to elders at a clinic in the poorest part of town. “Providers often leave after a few years, resources are scarce and support is suboptimal, and patients and families have many needs,” she wrote. “Dr. Iglesias Lino has increased her time there. She developed a team-based program to ease caregiver stress and improve quality of life for patients with advanced dementias. Her knowledge, diagnostic abilities, and nuanced treatment plans put her in high demand as a primary care physician and consultant.”
Dr. Iglesias Lino received her medical degree from the Universidad Nacional San Agustin, Arequipa, Peru in 2003.
Catherine D. Deamant, MD
The 2014 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the senior physician category honor Catherine D. Deamant, MD, system director of Supportive and Palliative Care Services for the Cook County Health and Hospitals System in Chicago and program director of the Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship at the John H. Stroger Hospital of Cook County. She is commended for creating a nationally recognized palliative care service that delivers state-of-the-art care in a county-funded safety net hospital, serving patient populations that lack access to such care, including immigrants and detainees.
Dr. Deamant began her career as an attending physician in general medicine at Cook County Hospital, specializing in the care of patients with HIV and care of homeless patients. In 2001, she devoted her career to palliative care and became the sole practitioner for the institution. Since then, she has grown the service to include six attending physicians, a nurse practitioner, a nurse, and two social workers, who see 850 inpatient consults a year, run five outpatient clinics, perform home visits, and train three fellows per year.
Joshua Baru, MD, attending physician at the John Stroger Hospital and member of the Section of Palliative Care, who nominated Dr. Deamant, cited the lengths to which she has gone to ensure that her patients receive the best possible care. These lengths included personally training interpreters to communicate with immigrant patients at the end of their lives and helping to honor the wishes of those who want to die in their home countries. “She developed relationships with local consulates and created a protocol for assisting terminally ill patients travel,” wrote Dr. Baru. “Cathy can develop a plan for all manner of medicines, medical tubes, and devices, so that travel from Chicago to Mongolia, Poland, or the Philippines with limited funds is possible, even for someone with extensive disease and poor performance status.”
Dr. Baru emphasized the tremendous barriers to providing quality end-of-life care in a resource-strapped safety-net population. “Hard work is not enough to realize this goal,” he wrote. “It takes energy, passion and dedication to motivate the institution to develop the resources necessary to deliver optimal care at the end of life. It takes integrity to stand firm to your principles when faced with barriers and maintain respect when promoting work that is new, uncomfortable and even controversial.”
Dr. Deamant received her medical degree from Rush Medical College in 1987.
Chris Feudtner, MD, PhD, MPH
The 2014 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the mid-career category honor Chris Feudtner, MD, PhD, MPH, director of the Department of Medical Ethics and director of research for the Pediatric Advanced Care Team at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He is recognized for his leadership in promoting better, more patient-driven care for children at the end of their lives, as well as to their families, at both Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the nation as a whole.
In nominating Dr. Feudtner, Ezekiel Emanuel, MSc, MD, PhD, Diane v.S. Levy and Robert M. Levy University Professor, Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, wrote that his “plural excellences – extraordinary success as a nationally recognized researcher and ethicist combined with exceptional face-to-face skills -- make him, in my mind, the epitome of the kind of doctor all worried parents would want for their sick children and the embodiment of the clinical leader needed by complex health care organizations serving sick children and their families.”
Dr. Feudtner has received numerous awards for his teaching, mentoring, and research. He has published more than 180 articles and book chapters on pediatric health care; palliative, end-of-life, and bereavement care; health service use and quality; child outcomes; and medical ethics. He has also published a book, Bittersweet: Diabetes, Insulin, and theTransformation of Illness. Among his many research efforts, Dr. Feudtner helped establish the Pediatric Palliative Care Research Network, a network of leading researchers in the U.S. and Canada who work collectively on improving pediatric palliative care services.
“Chris excels in the most complex situations imaginable: helping parents and children cope with devastating, life-threatening illnesses; fostering agreement when family members differ on the course of care for a sick or dying child; providing support when frustration, grief, and anger overwhelm parents; and providing a ready ear and steady hand when staff members experience emotional exhaustion while caring for a dying child,” wrote Dr. Emanuel. “He recognizes the need for offering hope when possible while being candid when necessary. He is simply put, one of the most compassionate, intuitively on point, and stabilizing influences I have encountered in my three-decade professional career.”
Dr. Feudtner received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1995.
Elise C. Carey, MD, FAAHPM
The 2014 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the early-career category honor Elise C. Carey, MD, FAAHPM, chair of the Section of Palliative Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. She was the founding program director of the Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship at Mayo Clinic Rochester, and she continues to direct the palliative medicine rotation for the Internal Medicine Residency Program. She has gained recognition for being an emerging national leader in palliative care education.
Dr. Carey joined Mayo Clinic in 2007 to advance Mayo Clinic’s palliative care program. Under her leadership the program gained essential resources and expanded to provide 24/7 coverage, an outpatient palliative care clinic, and an accredited fellowship program. Among her accomplishments, she broadened the reach of palliative care services from inpatients and oncology patients to patients with multiple conditions throughout the institution. Beyond Mayo, Dr. Carey has worked to improve curricula for hospice and palliative care fellows from across the upper Midwest by co-authoring and leading a two-day workshop called “PalliTALK: Improving the Way We Communicate with Seriously Ill Patients.”
She has also distinguished herself nationally. She is currently chair of the annual assembly planning committee for the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, and she serves on academy’s education and training strategic coordinating committee and the clinical education committee. Previously, she chaired the fellowship taskforce. In addition, she was selected to be in LEAD, the association’s highly competitive national faculty development and leadership program.
“She is a rising star in the discipline, a first-rate clinician, an inspiring and innovative teacher, and someone who is rapidly acquiring the research skills she needs to advance the field further,” wrote her nominator, Barbara Koenig, PhD, executive director and senior research scholar at the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics, formerly professor at the Mayo Clinic’s Biomedical Ethics Research Program. “I have rarely encountered anyone of her quality.”
Dr. Carey received her medical degree from the Brown-Dartmouth Program in Medicine in 1998.
Jeanette S. Ross, MD, AGSF, FAAHPM
The 2014 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the early career category honor Jeanette S. Ross, MD, AGSF, FAAHPM, staff physician in geriatrics and palliative care at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System in San Antonio and director of educational initiatives for the geriatric and palliative medicine fellowships at the University of Texas Health Science Center. She is commended for advancing palliative care for veterans, as well as for using communications technology to enhance education and clinical practice in care near the end of life.
Dr. Ross cares for hospitalized veterans in the hospice and palliative care consultation service and leads the hospice and palliative care clinic, which includes patients who are terminally ill or have chronic illnesses with multiple symptoms. She has significantly contributed to the growth of the palliative care fellowship program at University of Texas Health Science Center, which is one of the largest fellowship programs in the country. She has also developed and implemented an interdisciplinary curriculum in geriatric palliative care, which emphasizes complex communication, symptom management, identification of terminal illness, and advance care planning, with the goal of improving health care professionals’ ability to care for seriously ill elders.
“Since the very early stages of her career, Jeanette showed a unique charisma to teach and to add innovations to her teaching style, putting all her talents and skills to the service of learners and patients,” wrote Sandra Sanchez-Reilly, MD, palliative care section chief at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System and the University of Texas Health Science Center, who nominated Dr. Ross. “Dr. Ross is a kind and compassionate doctor who provides support to patients and families at a difficult time in their lives. With her educational efforts she has role modeled how to provide end-of-life care for many learners and reached hundreds of practicing health care professionals.”
Dr. Ross received her medical degree from the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, Medellin, Colombia in 1998. She completed a family medicine residency and fellowships in geriatric and palliative medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center.
Nadia Tremonti, MD
The 2014 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the early career category honor Nadia Tremonti, MD, medical director for palliative care at Children’s Hospital of Michigan and medical director for Kaleidoscope Kids Hospice at Henry Ford Health System. She is also an attending pediatrician with University Pediatricians, and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. She is praised for leadership in palliative care, exceptional empathy and communications skills with patients and their families, and excellence in mentoring colleagues about alleviating the dying process.
With limited financial and staffing resources, Dr. Tremonti began the palliative care program at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in 2007. Since then, the program has grown to serve more than 500 families. Engagement among caregivers, patients, and families are at the heart of her practice. She has recruited physicians, nurses, social workers, child life specialists, music therapists, and chaplains to be part of the palliative care team, and most recently she has invited parents of children who have received palliative care to team meetings.
During consultations, Dr. Tremonti seeks to discover not only how the disease has affected the child but also the impact it has had on the family as a whole–physically, spiritually, and emotionally, said her nominator, Elizabeth L. Voyles, RN, CPN, pediatric palliative care nurse coordinator at Children's Hospital of Michigan. She has the unique ability to explain the disease trajectory and potential complications to the family in terms they understand, often using pictures and diagrams to explain the course of the illness. “Through this patient and consistent work with families, she alleviates their fears and empowers them with knowledge,” said Voyles. In her brief career, Dr. Tremonti has been asked to give more than 35 lectures and presentations on various topics including communication in end-of-life, pediatric palliative care, symptom control during the dying process, and topics related to medical ethics.
Dr. Tremonti received her medical degree from Wayne State University School of Medicine in 2002.
Overview Highlighting the 2013 Awardees (4:22 min.)
Charles G. Sasser, M.D., FACP, FAAHPM
The 2013 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the senior physician category honor Charles G. Sasser, M.D., FACP, FAAHPM, director of palliative care services at Conway Medical Center in Conway, S.C.
Under Dr. Sasser’s leadership, Conway established the first interdisciplinary team for palliative care services in South Carolina – a team that included nurses, social workers, pastors, and physicians. A driving force behind Dr. Sasser’s pioneering work to establish an interdisciplinary team approach to palliative care is his belief “that the kind heart of the nurse, the logistical wisdom of the social worker, and the philosophical guidance of the pastor were just as important as the skills of the physician, and sometimes even more so,” said Martin A. Duclos, MD, codirector of Conway’s palliative care team.
The son of a country doctor, Dr. Sasser was practicing internal medicine when palliative care emerged as a new specialty. He soon moved to the forefront of the field. In his 45 years as a physician, he has been a model and mentor to generations of palliative care providers.
Those who have worked with Dr. Sasser describe his influence, skill, and humanity. “He has never failed to recognize each patient he has encountered with the utmost respect, and has treated each life as the unique, incredibly special gift that it is,” said his nominator, Patricia Douglas, Conway Medical Center’s staff chaplain.
Charles Sasser received his medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina in 1967.
Daniel C. Johnson, MD, FAAHPM
The 2013 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the mid-career category honor Daniel C. Johnson, MD, FAAHMP, national physician lead for palliative care at Kaiser Permanente’s Care Management Institute, as well as director of Palliative Care Innovations and Development at Kaiser Permanente-Colorado and director of the Life Quality Institute in Denver. He is also a physician on the Palliative Care Consult Services at Exempla St. Joseph Hospital in Denver and Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center in Lafayette, Co.
Dr. Johnson led the expansion of services at Kaiser Permanente-Colorado, partnering with local organizations to more than quadruple patient and family access to end-of-life care. At the Life Quality Institute, an organization dedicated to advancing palliative care through education, he oversaw the development of its award-winning education program for medical students, residents, and other health professionals.
Dr. Johnson has championed an approach to palliative care that focuses on comprehensive, interdisciplinary team-based support for patients and their loved ones. This team approach, which was evaluated in Kaiser Permanente studies in the hospital, home, and outpatient settings, showed improved quality of care for seriously ill patients on measures that included patient satisfaction, communication, and reduced hospital admissions. Across Kaiser’s eight regions, Dr. Johnson’s leadership has helped to influence universal access to palliative care support in all Kaiser Permanente-affiliated hospitals and rapidly expanded access to palliative support in outpatient settings.
Dr. Johnson received his medical degree from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in 1997.
Drew Rosielle, MD
The 2013 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the early-career physician category honor Drew Rosielle MD, a palliative care physician and program director of the Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship at the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis.
Dr. Rosielle is recognized for his expertise in and commitment to evidence-based palliative and end-of-life care and education. He is the editor of Fast Facts and Concepts, which provides concise, peer-reviewed, and evidence-based summaries on topics in palliative care for clinicians and trainees. He also founded Pallimed, an award winning and internationally recognized blog on hospice and palliative care. He serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Palliative Medicine and is a member of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine’s clinical education committee.
Dr. Rosielle “focuses on a core element of palliative care – the patient, family, and friends as the unit of care,” said his nominator, Lyn Ceronsky, DNP, GNP, Director of Palliative Care at the University of Minnesota Medical Center and Fairview Southdale Hospital. “He exudes a solid and supportive presence for families.”
Dr. Rosielle received his medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School in 2002.
Jane deLima Thomas, MD
The 2013 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the early-career physician category honor Jane deLima Thomas, MD, a palliative care physician and associate director of the Harvard Palliative Medicine Fellowship Program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Dr. Thomas is a leader among palliative care physicians and educators at Harvard Medical School. In her role with the fellowship program, she has had a major impact on the development of the field through training and modeling excellence in palliative practice. She instills in fellows the importance of empathy, compassion, competence, connectedness, and presence in palliative and end-of-life care.
Dr. Thomas is a nationally sought after speaker on the subject of navigating end-of-life conversations with patients, families, and teams. “She has the ability to comfortably and smoothly evaluate medical, psychosocial and spiritual aspects of a patient,” wrote her nominators, Janet Abrahm, MD, chief of the Division of Palliative Care, Department of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care, and Susan Block, MD, chair of the Department of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Dr. Thomas received her medical degree from the University of Massachusetts School Medicine in 2000.
Alen Voskanian, MD, FAAHPM, AAHIVS
The 2013 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the early-career physician category honor Alen Voskanian, MD, regional medical director of VITAS Innovative Hospice Care in Torrance, Calif.
Dr. Voskanian has expanded and developed innovative models of ambulatory palliative care and raised awareness of the benefits of palliative and end-of-life care through work with government agencies and professional organizations. In 2010, he was selected to participate in a California HealthCare Foundation Health Care Leadership Program, a fellowship that prepares health care professionals to assume significant roles in improving the state’s health care system. His project focused on initiating earlier palliative care outside the hospital setting.
An innovator, he was one of only 73 out of more than 900 applicants chosen to participate in the nationwide Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Innovation Advisors project, which develops new ideas, models, and methods of health care delivery for Medicare and Medicaid. Dr. Voskanian’s work explored ways to increase ambulatory palliative care through education within health care and to increase public awareness through public policy.
Dr. Voskanian received his medical degree from the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine in 2000.
Janet Bull, MD
The 2012 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the senior career category honor Janet Bull, MD, chief medical officer and principal investigator of Four Seasons, a nonprofit hospice and palliative care organization that serves the Hendersonville and Asheville regions of western North Carolina.
A pioneer in establishing best practices in hospice and palliative care, Dr. Bull is passionately committed to improving the care of patients at the end of life – locally, nationally, and globally. She was instrumental in establishing the palliative care program at Four Seasons in 2003 and two years later founded what is now a nationally recognized clinical research department that studies methods to help lessen patients’ suffering. She has served as principal investigator on more than 30 clinical trials. She also designed the Palliative Care Immersion Course, an experiential learning program offered to clinicians from around the country, which trained more than 50 physicians in 2011.
In addition to speaking frequently on hospice and palliative medicine in the U.S., Dr. Bull has provided clinical, technical, and leadership support for the development of palliative care in Africa. In 2010 she traveled to Zambia to work with its palliative care association to create a strategic plan for training, educational exchange, and workforce and capacity development. While there, she helped establish a center of excellence for training and mentorship. In nominating her, Chris Comeaux, president and chief executive officer of Four Seasons, said of Dr. Bull, “Her career path is marked by an unusual ability to draw together distinct poles: beginning of life and end of life, academic-based and community-based, research and clinical, and, by closing these gaps, clarify the meaning of high-quality, whole-person health care.”
Dr. Bull’s own words speak to her ability to find and learn from commonality across the entire spectrum of human experience. “I have probably attended as many deaths as I have births,” she said when asked recently about her relationship with patients. “I find the similarities uncanny. There is a sacredness that surrounds them both. A good birth and a good death are filled with the same ingredients – laughter, tears, peacefulness, joy, love and an incredible sense of awe. My purpose has been to help guide my patients through these transitions.”
She received her medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in 1981.
Michael W. Rabow, MD
The 2012 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the mid-career category honor Michael W. Rabow, MD, professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and director of the Symptom Management Service at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, a leading outpatient palliative care consultation program.
Dr. Rabow serves as a consultant to hospitals throughout the country that are working to develop or expand their palliative care services. He is a member of the curriculum development committee of the national Palliative Care Leadership Center Initiative, which has trained more than 1,000 hospital-based palliative care programs in the United States. He is also the associate director of the UCSF Palliative Care Leadership Center and he developed and directs the Symptom Management Service, one of the first outpatient palliative care services in a comprehensive cancer center in the United States.
Dr. Rabow was assistant editor of the recently completed bimonthly section in the Journal of the American Medical Association entitled “Perspectives on Care at the Close of Life,” which became a palliative care textbook, Care at the Close of Life: Evidence and Experience (McGraw-Hill Professional, 2010). He is also the executive producer of The Caregivers, a documentary film and an accompanying caregiver handbook.
His has published research on palliative care, family caregiving, and end-of-life care education and has given presentations around the country on pain management, care of family caregivers, communication, and artificial nutrition and hydration at the end of life. “There are people who are academic stars, who are great thinkers and writers,” wrote Jennifer Heidmann, MD, vice chair of the medical department of St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka, Calif., in her nomination letter. “Others excel at teaching, able to create perfect greenhouses for the growth of their students’ talent and enthusiasm. Some are effective practicing clinicians, healing and impacting people one at a time. Dr. Rabow is the rare complete package: scholar, teacher and healer extraordinaire.”
He received his medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco, in 1993.
Justin N. Baker, MD, FAAP, FAAHPM
The 2012 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the early-career physician category honor Justin N. Baker MD, FAAP, FAAHPM, who holds three positions at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis: director of the division of Palliative and End-of-Life Care, attending physician in the Quality of Life Service, and director of the Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Program. He is recognized for his outstanding leadership and research on palliative care for children.
Dr Baker has walked with many families as they battled pain, suffering, and psychosocial distress in the face of a child’s advancing cancer. He has cared for hundreds of dying children and their families and helped develop a model for delivering palliative care in a child’s “medical home” – wherever the child is receiving medical care. His efforts helped earn the Quality of Life Service the 2010 St Jude Outstanding Clinical Improvement Award. He is one of only a handful of physicians across the country with board certification in pediatrics, pediatric hematology/oncology, and hospice and palliative medicine.
Dr Baker’s research focuses on ethical considerations surrounding enrollment in Phase I clinical trials. He has participated in more than 25 studies related to pediatric palliative care and has written more than 50 manuscripts, abstracts, and book chapters on the subject. His research has demonstrated the powerful positive impact of integrating high quality palliative care into the ongoing care of children suffering from serious illnesses. On top of a full schedule as a physician, Dr. Baker finds the time to be deeply involved in his community, from coaching youth soccer to serving as a college career leader at his church. In the words of his nominator, Liza-Marie Johnson, MD, MPH, a fellow in pediatric hematology/oncology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Dr Baker is “a tireless physician and researcher, a devoted husband and father, and a pillar of the Memphis community.”
He received his medical degree from University of Texas Health Science Center School of Medicine in San Antonio in 2001.
The 2012 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the early-career physician category honor Jason Morrow, MD, PhD, medical director of palliative care at University Health System in San Antonio, Tx., and an assistant professor of medicine at University of Texas Health Science Center School of Medicine, for his advocacy in expanding palliative care services and his passion for educating medical students, residents, and other physicians in clinical practices and ethics.
Dr. Morrow’s advocacy and educational activities in palliative care have made him a role model. Clinicians have routinely sought his counsel in ethically complicated cases at University of Texas Health Science Center, as well as at Duke University Health System and Durham Regional Hospital, where he was a palliative care physician until July 2011.
He has received high praise for his skills as an educator. A point that he often emphasizes when teaching is that the best way to communicate with patients and their families is to listen, and not talk. “One of his greatest strengths is his ability to recruit those around him to advance the level of care provided to dying patients,” wrote Dr. David Gallagher, director of Duke University’s hospital medicine programs, in his nomination letter. “He is early in a career that is full of promise.”
Dr. Morrow received his medical degree and his doctorate in medical humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston in 2004.
Theresa A. Soriano, MD, MPH
The 2012 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the early-career physician category honor Theresa A. Soriano, MD, MPH, director of the Mount Sinai Visiting Doctors Program at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. She is recognized for her advocacy and leadership in caring for underserved patients and bringing primary and palliative care to those who are homebound.
Under her leadership, the Visiting Doctors Program has created a safety net for more than 1,200 homebound patients and provided a comfortable setting for those who wish to die at home. "The success of the Visiting Doctors Program in providing end-of-life and primary care in a challenging health care environment is the result of Theresa Soriano’s advocacy, her passion for caring for the underserved, and her deep understanding of the importance of the person within the patient,” wrote David Muller, MD, dean for medical education at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in his nomination letter.
Even with her extensive administrative responsibilities, Dr. Soriano is in the trenches, delivering care to homebound patients and their caregivers, mainly in East Harlem and Washington Heights, two of New York’s most underserved neighborhoods. “Whether it is for the patient at the bedside, the trainee struggling to make sense of caring for someone at the end of life, the faculty member delicately balancing doing ‘the right thing’ with the demands of a career in academic medicine, budget negotiations with hospital administration, or lobbying in the state legislature, Dr. Soriano brings to bear her intellect, passion for justice, and keen interpersonal skills to get the job done,” Muller said.
She received her medical degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York in 2001.
Ann Allegre, MD, FACP, FAAHPM
The 2011 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the senior physician category honor Ann Allegre, MD, FACP, FAAHPM, director of medical programs at Kansas City Hospice and Palliative Care in Kansas City, Mo.
Dr. Allegre is a pioneer in the fields of hospice care and palliative medicine. She began her career in general medicine and soon became interested in palliative medicine as a result of a personal experience with life-threatening illness. She joined Kansas City Hospice and Palliative Care in 1995 and became its first director of medical programs. In 1999, she became the founding medical director of the Palliative Care Consult Team at Providence Medical Center in Kansas City. “Ann Allegre has single-handedly developed and promoted palliative care throughout the Kansas City area,” says Jim Stoddard, DO, medical director of the palliative care team at North Kansas City Hospital.
Colleagues praise her remarkable communication skills, her holistic and spiritual approach to her patients and their families, and her finely honed clinical expertise. “Dr. Ann Allegre brought great technical skill, compassionately disguised as grace and comfort, to both my mother-in-law and my mother during their terminal illnesses,” said Robert Lyman Potter, MD, PhD. “Dr. Allegre is a spiritual exemplar who has shared herself with individuals like me while serving as a powerful ideal that has brought palliative care to amazing heights in Kansas City.”
Dr. Allegre is also an educator and mentor to other physicians. As an associate clinical professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Kansas, School of Medicine, she educates the next generation of physicians about end-of-life care. She is also active in the work of the Center for Practical Bioethics in Kansas City.
Dr. Allegre received her medical degree from the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 1977.
Stefan J. Friedrichsdorf, MD
The 2011 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the early-career physician category honor Stefan J. Friedrichsdorf, MD, medical director of the Department of Pain Medicine, Palliative Care and Integrative Medicine at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, for innovative symptom management of pediatric patients, compassion, and family-centered care.
Dr. Friedrichsdorf is also the principal investigator of a five-year, multisite study on the creation, implementation and evaluation of a pediatric palliative care curriculum, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute. He lectures extensively nationally and internationally on pediatric pain medicine, palliative care and integrative medicine and has contributed to more than 15 books on the subjects.
Dr. Friedrichsdorf cares for children as inpatients and outpatients, as well as in their homes. “He has a profound ability to connect with patients and families in a nonthreatening way that builds trust and openness,” wrote Clark Smith, MD, Chief of Services, Pediatrics, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, in nominating Dr. Friedrichsdorf. “He is known for his open-door policy and his willingness to do ‘curbside consults’ with family members, who as a result feel free to contact him to discuss their concerns.”
Before becoming a doctor, Dr. Friedrichsdorf worked as a factory worker, actor, assistant nurse, journalist, paramedic, and youth group leader. He received his medical degree from the Medical University of Lübeck in Germany in 1998 and studied pediatric palliative care and hospice in Australia and Poland.
Anthony Nicholas Galanos, MA, MD
The 2011 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the midcareer physician category honor Anthony Nicholas Galanos, MA, MD, medical director of the Duke University Hospital Palliative Care Service in Durham, N.C. Dr. Galanos is also an associate professor of medicine in the Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatrics, at the Duke University Medical Center; a senior research fellow in Duke’s Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development; and an associate faculty scholar in the Duke Institute on Care at the End of Life.
For more than a decade, Dr. Galanos worked tirelessly to establish the palliative care service at Duke Hospital, and his efforts have resulted in a dramatic improvement in the quality of end-of-life care for patients, families, and providers. Last year, the service completed over 500 consults – most of them provided by Dr. Galanos himself. “His mastery of skills critical to outstanding palliative care physicians, such as communication, symptom management, psychosocial and spiritual support, and care coordination are best represented by the comments of those who directly benefit from his care – patients, families, and other providers,” said Kimberly S. Johnson, MD, assistant professor of pedicine, Duke University Medical Center, who nominated Dr. Galanos.
As one family member put it, “Palliative care, end-of-life care, comfort care – what you call it is not nearly so important as the end result: the offering of peace and dignity for a patient, a person, who is beginning to die. Losing someone you love causes indescribable pain that touches deep into one’s soul. Tony helps establish an atmosphere of calmness and acceptance that fosters a good death, one where the love we fear losing is in the end strengthened."
Johnson also commented that the dialogue between Dr. Galanos and his patients is often filled with laughter and that he has the unique ability to get a laugh or smile from patients who are gravely ill, giving them something to focus on other than their illness.
Dr. Galanos received his MA in Clinical Psychology from the University of Dayton in 1978 and his MD from University of South Alabama in 1986.
Savithri Nageswaran, MBBS, MPH
The 2011 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the early-career physician category honor Savithri Nageswaran, MBBS, MPH, director of the pediatric palliative care program at Brenner Children’s Hospital at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.
In 2008, Dr. Nageswaran developed the first pediatric palliative care program at Brenner Children’s Hospital. More than 200 children have received care from the program. She also conducts research on improving the health care of children with complex chronic conditions and works with multiple community agencies to improve communication between hospital-based and community-based providers. In addition, she teaches pediatric palliative care to medical students and resident physicians.
Dr. Nageswaran “is knowledgeable and skillful; compassionate to children and their families; and intellectually curious – characteristics that make her a role model for residents and medical students,” wrote Dr. Jon S. Abramson, Weston M. Kelsey Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, in nominating her for the award.
“I appreciate the passion that she has about palliative care and its benefits to the patients,” wrote a Wake Forest medical student who supported Dr. Nageswaran’s nomination. “She cares about the well being, the comfort, and psychological care of the family and patients. It is very important that we encounter physicians who care about their patients and want to do what is best for them despite their prognosis.”
Dr. Nageswaran received her MBBS (the equivalent of a medical degree) from Kilpauk Medical College in India in 1991. She trained as a pediatric resident at Wake Forest and as a preventive medicine resident at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she also earned an MPH.
Eric W. Widera, MD
The 2011 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the early-career physician category honor Eric W. Widera, MD, director of the Hospice and Palliative Care Service of San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center and an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. In his work, which focuses on geriatrics and palliative medicine, he has passionately advocated for improving the care given to elderly patients with severe chronic conditions.
Stan Horn nominated Dr. Widera after seeing first hand the care that his brother received at the hospice unit of the VA Medical Center. “At our first meeting, Dr. Widera told us that we could call him Eric and he gave us his pager number,” he wrote. Horn detailed how Dr. Widera continued that level of caring and compassion both in treating his brother and in talking with family and friends even after his brother’s death. “Dr. Widera has shown a significant and diversified degree of leadership and impact as a role model for other physicians in the community.”
As a clinician-educator at University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Widera has been a driving force in a number of innovations, including the creation of a monthly interdisciplinary palliative care conference at the medical center. He has received numerous awards for his educational accomplishments. Most recently, he has been examining the role social media plays in the education of professionals in palliative medicine and is a cofounder of geripal.org, an online forum for health professionals in geriatrics and palliative medicine.
Dr. Widera received his medical degree from University of California, San Francisco, in 2002.
Robert A. Milch, MD, FACS
The 2010 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the established physician category honor Robert A. Milch, MD, FACS, a physician at The Center for Hospice and Palliative Care, near Buffalo. Dr. Milch, a surgeon, has been a leader in hospice and palliative care for more than 30 years, almost since its inception in the United States. He was recognized for his longstanding commitment to and excellence in clinical care for patients with advanced illness and for his regional and national leadership in palliative care and surgery.
Dr. Milch’s work in hospice care began in 1977, when he came to Hospice Buffalo as the medical director on a voluntary basis, even while working in a large surgical practice. He helped to shape the organization, as well as develop the field of hospice care overall. Dr. Milch was a founding member of the National Association of Hospice Physicians and served as president from 1981 to 1982. He was director of the Palliative Care Service at Buffalo General Hospital from 1980 to 1994. In 1993 he left his surgical practice to become the full-time medical director of Hospice Buffalo, which is now part of The Center for Hospice and Palliative Care.
Colleagues cited Dr. Milch’s humility and integrity, as well as his openness and accessibility. “Dr. Milch is often described as a brilliant physician,” wrote William Finn, president and CEO of The Center for Hospice and Palliative Care, in his nomination. “He is also a master of the art of medicine, seeking to heal the patient as well as addressing the disease.” Finn quoted a nurse as saying, “`You could count on Dr. Milch to come to a home in the middle of the night if he was needed by the patient, family or hospice staff. He would stop at a patient's home because an out-of-town family member came for a visit and they wanted to meet him or because a patient just needed reassurance…. He was at the bedside of any dying hospice patient that needed him.’”
After retiring as medical director of Hospice Buffalo in 2007, Dr. Milch stayed on as a physician, working with nurses, social workers, clergy and others in the care of patients.
Dr. Milch received his medical degree from the University of Buffalo in 1968.
A conversation with Dr. Milch
Elisabeth Potts Dellon, MD, MPH
The 2010 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the early-career physician category honor Elisabeth Potts Dellon, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of pediatrics, Division of Pulmonology, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Dellon was selected for her unique set of clinical skills in caring for children and young adults with advanced chronic lung disease. She is one of the few pediatric pulmonologists in the Southeastern United States caring for children undergoing lung transplantation.
During her fellowship training at the University of North Carolina, Dr. Dellon started a research program on decision-making involving children with end-stage cystic fibrosis. The project seeks to determine the key unmet needs of patients and families as they make critical decisions about lung transplantation, end-of-life treatments, and other care. She was invited to moderate a session on end-of-life care at the 2009 American Thoracic Society meetings, and is emerging as a national leader in this area.
In her clinical work, Dr. Dellon has developed an expertise in patient- and family-centered approaches to end-stage care with a complex patient population that has rarely had these crucial issues adequately addressed by physicians. She is currently working to develop novel end-of-life decision aid tools for use by physicians and patients
“As a practicing pulmonologist for more than 20 years, and a former training program director, I can attest that our field is in great need of role models and leaders in late-disease care and decision-making,” wrote her nominator, Terry L. Noah, MD, a professor at the University of North Carolina. “Dr. Dellon is one of the only physicians I have ever met with all of the academic and personal tools to serve this role.”
Dr. Dellon received an MD from University of Minnesota in 1999 and an MPH from the University of North Carolina in 2007.
Jeffrey N. Stoneberg, DO
The 2010 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the early-career physician category honor Jeffrey N. Stoneberg, DO, medical director of the San Diego Hospice and The Institute for Palliative Medicine. He was recognized for his outstanding clinical skills and his achievements in growing the Scripps Mercy Palliative Care Consultation Service, a local community health care system.
Dr. Stoneberg was one of the first physicians in the U.S. to seek fellowship training in palliative medicine. Today, he is responsible for the medical care of home and in-patient hospice patients, and for educating clinicians and other health care workers on care of terminally ill patients including pain and symptom management.
In 2008, Scripps Mercy asked the San Diego Hospice to take over and develop the palliative medicine consultation service, and Dr. Stoneberg became its clinical medical director. In that role he has significantly increased the pace of understanding, acceptance, and utilization of the palliative medicine service. He has started new services that have won over clinicians not traditionally involved with palliative care, such as trauma physicians.
“Dedication, excellence in patient care, and role model as teacher – those words describe Dr. Stoneberg well,” wrote his nominator, Laurel Herbst, MD, chief medical officer and vice president of San Diego Hospice and The Institute for Palliative Medicine. “Jeff’s level of professionalism and compassion make him a favorite with staff at Mercy, and even though [he is a member of the] junior faculty, he has generated wide respect for his teaching and clinical skills by even the most senior physicians in the hospital.”
Dr. Stoneberg is a 2001 graduate of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Eytan Szmuilowicz, MD
The 2010 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the early-career physician category honor Eytan Szmuilowicz, MD, an instructor in the Division of Hospital Medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He was selected for his devotion to and excellence in patient care, as well as his strong commitment to teaching and research on improving clinical training in end-of-life care.
Dr. Szmuilowicz teaches palliative care at the Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. He has developed palliative care curricula for hospitalists and medical students, including skills for talking with patients at the end of their lives. At Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Dr. Szmuilowicz has spearheaded efforts to establish a robust palliative care program, using a teamwork approach with a nurse practitioner, social worker, chaplain, and pharmacist to the best care possible.
“He is a humane, compassionate, expert, and committed palliative care physician who performs superbly at the bedside, in the classroom and with colleagues,” wrote Susan Brock, MD, co-director of the Center for Palliative Care at Harvard Medical School and a former mentor, in a letter of support for Dr. Szmuilowicz’s nomination. “He is an extraordinary role model, inspires others through his actions, and has a gift for and seriousness about the teaching enterprise that are rare and precious.”
Dr. Szmuilowicz is a 2001 graduate of Harvard Medical School.
The 2015 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the early career category honor Mary K. Buss, MD, MPH, a medical oncologist and palliative medicine specialist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, where she built and directs the outpatient palliative care clinic. The selection committee noted that she has “altered the perception of palliative care within the institution” and cited “her role as an important bridge between oncology and palliative care.”