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Physicians Honored for Outstanding Care of Patients Near the End of Life

Five physicians who have distinguished themselves in caring for patients near the end of life have been named recipients of the 2013 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards.  

 “The Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards are in their fourth year, and the winners continue to exemplify excellence in doctoring for people with advanced illness,” said Richard Payne, M.D., Esther Colliflower Director of the Duke Institute on Care at the End of Life and a member of the selection committee. “They serve as beacons in their communities by being role models of quality comprehensive care.” 

 The awards were made in three categories: a senior award and a mid-career award of $25,000 each and three early-career awards of $15,000 apiece. Each recipient has been exemplary in one or more of four areas: medical practice, teaching, research, and community.  

 The Cunniff-Dixon Foundation, whose mission is to enrich the doctor-patient relationship near the end of life, funds the awards. The Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute that has done groundbreaking work on end-of-life decision-making, cosponsors the awards. The Duke Institute on Care at the End of Life oversees the selection process. 

 “Establishing high-quality end-of-life care has been a priority for The Hastings Center during its four-decade history,” said Mildred Z. Solomon, president of The Hastings Center. “The outstanding work of these physicians illustrates what we aim to promote in the care of all patients with advanced illness throughout the nation. The compassion and skill of these doctors are making a profound difference to patients and families, and we are enormously proud to honor them.”  

 The 2013 recipients are: 

 Senior Physician Award: Charles G. Sasser, M.D., FACP, FAAHPM, director of palliative care services at Conway Medical Center in Conway, S.C.  He is a pioneer in palliative care who has been a model and mentor to generations of palliative care providers. Under his leadership, Conway established the first interdisciplinary team for palliative care services in South Carolina – a team that included nurses, social workers, pastors, and physicians. Colleagues praise the value he places on doctor-patient discussions and his mentorship of colleagues from all specialties and practices of medicine.  

 Mid-Career Physician Award: Daniel C. Johnson, M.D., FAAHPM, 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. 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.  

 Early-Career Physician Awards:  

 Drew Rosielle M.D., a palliative care physician and program director for the Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship at the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis, for his commitment to evidence-based palliative and end-of-life care and education. 

 Jane de Lima Thomas, M.D., a palliative care physician and associate director of the Harvard Palliative Medicine Fellowship Program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, for her leadership and impact on the development of the field of palliative care through training and modeling excellence in palliative care practice. 

 Alen Voskanian, M.D., regional medical director, VITAS Innovative Hospice Care, Torrance, Calif., for his effort to expand and develop innovative models of ambulatory palliative care and to raise awareness of the benefits of palliative and end-of-life care through work with government agencies and professional organizations.  

 The prize recipients were selected by a committee convened by The Hastings Center. In addition to Dr. Payne, the committee consisted of Thomas P. Duffy, M.D., of Yale University; Kathleen M. Foley, M.D., of Weill Medical College of Cornell University and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; and Larry R. Churchill, Ph.D., of Vanderbilt University.