A pivotal study “America’s Care of Serious Illness: A State-by-State Report Card on Access to Palliative Care in Our Nation’s Hospitals” conducted by the Center to Advance Palliative Care and the National Palliative Care Research Center demonstrated that about 90 million Americans are currently living with a serious, life-threatening illness. The study’s authors project this group will more than double over the next 25 years as the number of aging baby boomers increases.
Foreseeing a serious gap in health care, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Methodist Hospice and Palliative Care have worked together to make the Hospice and Palliative Care Fellowship Program at UTHSC a credentialed program through the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
“Having an accredited program following ACGME standards ensures our program maintains a level of advanced expertise, and our fellows will receive the highest quality training available,” said David Maness, M.D., Chair of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center Department of Family Medicine.
Physicians who complete the Hospice and Palliative Care Fellowship Program at UTHSC will be eligible to take the exams to become board certified in Hospice and Palliative Care as a sub-specialty.
W. Clay Jackson, M.D., DipTh, medical director for Methodist and Palliative Care, says that ACGME accreditation has allowed the Hospice and Palliative Care Fellowship Program to expand so that more adult and pediatric specialists will be trained in the field of hospice and palliative care. The UTHSC program can now train a total of four Hospice and Palliative Care Fellows – two adult and two pediatric.
“ACGME accreditation poses a particularly significant advancement in pediatric palliative care,” explains Dr. Jackson. “Memphis is recognized nationally for pediatric oncology through St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, but now, with ACGME accreditation for pediatric palliative care, Memphis is positioned to become a leader in this important area of medicine that has far too few specialists.”
A major barrier to the expansion of palliative care services across the country is the lack of palliative medicine physicians. According to the aforementioned study, there is one cardiologist for every 71 people experiencing a heart attack and one oncologist for every 141 newly diagnosed cancer patients; however, there is only one palliative medicine physician for every 1,200 people living with a serious or life-threatening illness.
Hospice and palliative care is a growing field. Just 10 years ago there were virtually no palliative care programs in any of our country’s hospitals. Today, 63 percent of hospitals with 50 or more beds provide a palliative care team.
“Hospice and palliative care is an emerging field of medicine,” said Kristy Bryan, M.D., a physician with Methodist Hospice and Palliative Care who completed her Hospice and Palliative Care Fellowship through UTHSC in 2011. “For a long time there weren’t enough physicians to lead hospice and palliative care teams. Now, we are going through training that wasn’t available say 10 years ago.”
Deena Levine, M.D., a quality of life and palliative care physician with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the first graduate of the accredited program, says the Hospice and Palliative Care Fellowship Program offered by UTHSC is helping her achieve her career goals.
“This program is very important,” says Dr. Levine. “Board certification in hospice and palliative care gives me a level of experience and credibility so that I can provide my patients with the best care possible.”
After completing her fellowship, Dr. Levine will work at St. Jude as a quality of life and neuro oncology physician. She says there are only a handful of other universities in the country that offer a pediatric fellowship program in hospice and palliative care.
Dr. Jackson states, “We’re very proud of recent graduates like Kristy and Deena, and we’re looking forward to educating more top-flight physicians like them so that patients here in the Mid-South can receive the world-class care they deserve.”
About Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare
Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare (MLH) is an integrated health care delivery system based in Memphis, Tenn. Founded in 1918 by The United Methodist Church to help meet the growing needs for quality health care in the Mid-South, MLH has grown from one hospital into a seven-hospital system that also includes a home health agency, ambulatory surgery centers, outpatient facilities and physician practices serving the Memphis and Mid-South area.
Methodist was recently named the best hospital in Memphis by U.S. News and World Report, the #2 hospital in Tennessee, and #49 nationally in nephrology. Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare has consistently been named one of the Top 100 Integrated Healthcare Networks in the country.
Affiliated with the Memphis, Mississippi and Arkansas Conferences of The United Methodist Church, Methodist Healthcare combines a dedication to the art of healing with a Christ-centered commitment to minister to the whole person.
The Memphis hospitals are licensed as one and with 1,689 licensed beds and 60,431 inpatient admissions, Methodist is the third largest hospital in the country. With 11,000 associates, Methodist is the second largest private employer in Memphis. Methodist Le Bonheur’s major areas of focus are: cardiology, oncology, neurosciences, transplant, and pediatrics. For more information visit www.methodisthealth.org.