Rochester Physician Leads National Palliative Care Organization

March 22, 2012

Timothy E. Quill, M.D.

A Rochester physician has been elected president of the leading national organization in palliative care.

Timothy E. Quill, M.D., director of the Center for Ethics, Humanities and Palliative Care at the University of Rochester Medical Center, assumed the presidency of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine earlier this month at the group’s annual meeting in Denver.

Quill takes the reins of the 4,100-member group at a time when hospitals are working to keep up with increasing demand for palliative care, which provides symptom-relieving measures and added support during all stages of serious illness. The focus is on alleviating suffering and relieving symptoms while at the same time delivering the best possible medical treatments to patients.

“For too long, people have approached the questions surrounding relieving suffering and enhancing patients’ well-being as an either/or proposition with regard to disease treatment,” said Quill, who heads the Palliative Care Division of the Department of Medicine

“The question is no longer whether to treat medically or to provide comfort-oriented care. Most often we can do both side by side. This approach is at the center of modern palliative care, providing the best medical treatments while simultaneously reducing pain, enhancing the patient’s quality of life and opening lines of communication within a family.

“Recent studies have shown that this approach enhances quality of care, saves money and may even prolong life. Our understanding of palliative care has really evolved,” added Quill, who is professor of Medicine, Psychiatry, Medical Humanities, and Nursing.

Quill has helped train a generation of physicians in medical schools across the country about how to work effectively with seriously ill patients. Increasing the pool of people trained in palliative care is a top priority for Quill, who says there are not enough young physicians trained in the area to meet the growing national need.

Quill heads one of the strongest palliative care programs in the world. The team provides more than 1,000 new inpatient consultations and about 400 new outpatient and home consultations annually. The program also offers a 12-bed inpatient unit, required palliative care educational experiences for medical students and residents, a clinical fellowship program, and a clinical research team.

URMC and its community affiliates have more than 25 board-certified physician specialists in palliative care, one of the highest concentrations of palliative-care physician specialists in the nation. The team also includes clinicians from a wide range of other disciplines, including nurses, nurse practitioners, social workers, chaplains, a music practitioner, massage therapists, and a bereavement coordinator, as well as medical students, residents and fellows.

Recently the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Palliative Care Program became the first in an academic medical center nationwide to earn advanced certification from the Joint Commission, the nation’s predominant standards-setting and accrediting body in health care. 

Quill’s team has received several awards for its work, including the American Health Association’s Circle of Life Citation of Honor, in recognition of its community-wide palliative care and end-of-life initiatives. Two months ago URMC’s Palliative Care Team was recognized with a University of Rochester Medical Center Excellence Award for its dedication to delivering a patient care experience that demonstrates integrity, compassion, accountability, respect and excellence.

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