Palliative Care Now a Division of Department of Medicine

Mar. 17, 2009

Palliative Care, recently recognized as a subspecialty by the American Board of Medical Specialties, has become a division of the Department of Medicine.

The division is an outgrowth of the Center for Ethics, Humanities and Palliative Care. Both the division and the center are headed by Timothy E. Quill, M.D., professor of Medicine, Psychiatry, and Medical Humanities, and now chief of the Palliative Care Division.

Board-certified palliative care clinicians provide consultative help for inpatients at Strong Memorial Hospital, Highland Hospital, and Monroe Community Hospital. Outpatient and home-based consultations are also available. The service, which was created in 2001, is available to anyone who is seriously ill, at any stage of their illness, with a referral from his or her primary doctor.

The division estimates that it will conduct more than 1,000 inpatient consultations in the next year, in addition to several hundred outpatient consultations. The division has just received approval from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education to offer a one-year palliative care fellowship.

In addition, in April the division will open an inpatient palliative care unit at Strong Memorial Hospital. The Sussman Palliative Care Unit will include 12 private rooms with family-friendly amenities and medical care offering both the best quality of life for patients and their families at the same time they receive the best possible disease management.

The palliative care team includes clinicians from a wide range of disciplines, including physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, researchers, medical residents, social workers, chaplains, music and massage therapists, and a bereavement coordinator. Clinical goals include relieving pain and enhancing quality-of-life issues, as well as helping patients and their families work through the growing number of options available to them in the face of serious illness.

Palliative care has been recognized by ABMS as a subspecialty associated with several different fields, including medicine, surgery, pediatrics, emergency medicine, family medicine and radiology. The University of Rochester Medical Center and its affiliates have more than 20 board-certified specialists in palliative care.

Thanks to the ongoing work by Quill and his colleagues, the University’s Palliative Care Program has received several honors and is widely recognized as one of the nation’s premier programs. Quill is a pioneer in palliative care and end-of-life decision making, regularly helping patients and their families maximize their quality of life and sometimes confront some of the thorniest issues in the practice of medicine in the 21st century. He has worked to increase the availability of palliative care to all seriously ill patients, not just those who are facing the end of life. He and several of his colleagues recently authored the 4th edition of the Primer of Palliative Care, which provides guidance for clinicians trying to address quality-of-life issues with their patients.