Featured article

2015; Volume 16, No 5, May

Featured article

IAHPC Newsletter’s 19-year history – from our beginnings

William C. Farr, PhD, MD, IAHPC Lifetime Board Member, Senior Adviser to the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care and founding Senior Editor of the newsletter, tells the story of the IAHPC Newsletter, from April 1996 to 2015, and provides a valuable record of the evolution of IAHPC.

Dr. William C. Farr

The seed of IAHPC was planted in 1980 when Dr. Jo Magno started the International Hospice Institute (IHI). Initially, the day-to-day operation of IHI was run by Dr. Magno and eventually she ‘made me’ her vice president. If you knew Jo, you would understand how this happened.

Dr. Jo Magno
The first newsletter

The purpose of IHI was twofold: the first, was to increase the involvement of the medical profession in the delivery of hospice care by working towards the formation of the Academy of Hospice Physicians which occurred in 1988. In 2000, the name was changed to the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and it became independent of IHI. The second purpose was to develop a solid base of knowledge on the concept of hospice through research (and education). To these ends, IHI initially offered an annual symposium where hospice leaders from around the world came for three days to deliver updates on what was going on in the field and how we might promote the concept in our own communities. Importantly, it provided a needed opportunity for workers in the field to ask questions of speakers and be able to meet and talk informally in the rural settings of our meetings.

In 1989, Dr. Jan Stjernswärd, then Director of the Cancer and Palliative Care division of the World Health Organization, informed the participants of an IHI symposium that despite advances in the management of pain 75% of people dying in the world were still in pain. In response to this information, IHI formed, planned and then initiated the International College of Hospice/Palliative Care (ICHPC) in late 1995 with Dr. Derek Doyle as its first President.

It became apparent that an annual meeting was not a vehicle that would result in significant communication and input from and among our members. In early 1996, I approached Dr. Magno about the possibility of beginning a quarterly newsletter with input from world leaders and readers. She said, “Great idea, you do it.” Since I was retired and living in Taos, New Mexico at the time, I began to solicit input and develop content for the first newsletter, which was published by a local printer in New Mexico. I obtained help from members of IHI, speakers at our symposia and from the literature. The first issue was printed as a four-page layout, folded and addressed on our dining room table. After a couple of editions, it was obvious that we needed a more professional newsletter. We then developed a new two-color format and printed a couple of issues in Taos, but it was too costly and time-consuming and our then Executive Director, Dr. Bette Michael, in Ann Arbor, Michigan volunteered to receive the text of the newsletter from me and have it formatted and printed in Ann Arbor. She did this for a couple years actually schlepping printed newsletters to the post office and more – thank you Bette.

Second renditions

In the meantime, Dr. Roger Woodruff and Bob Child submitted a grant application to develop a website and thanks to the support of the Open Society Institute’s funding we were off and running. Bob Child took over as webmaster for several years. The website permitted us to reach a very large audience at a fraction of the cost of printing and mailing and in June 1999 the first online newsletter was uploaded to the website.

The content of the newsletter has been modified during the years but essentially we try to offer a wide range of educational materials plus highlighting some of our in-house programs such as the IAHPC Travelling fellowship and scholars’ reports, free publications, programs that we initiate, book reviews, meeting updates, articles of interest written by Board members, an article of the month and many other contributions. In the early days many of us were not computer literate and we communicated internationally by phone and fax, now we communicate by email. We invite hospice/palliative care programs and workers from around the world to submit articles for consideration to publish to our editor.

First online newsletter June 1999

The newsletter became a monthly publication in 1999 as it continues today. As editor, I was ‘fed’ information from our Executive Director, Chair and Board members and others. I put it together in an agreed upon format and sent it to our webmaster for publication in both a website and as an abbreviated email version to some 8,000 readers. Along the way, we have had some very excellent professional help with the development of the website and for the past several years our webmaster has been Danilo Fritzler.

I have been blessed with assistance and guidance through the years by experts in the field of palliative/hospice care. It has been a privilege to know and work with the following, just to name a few: Derek Doyle, Roger Woodruff, Eduardo Bruera, Kathleen Foley, Roberto Wenk, Carla Ripamonti, Lukas Radbruch, Liliana De Lima, and our past and current Board members. Our newsletter is not a one-person job, it is not about me, it is a cooperative effort and without the help of people like those mentioned above, plus many of our readers like you, it would not exist.

During the past few years because of my increasingly poor health the team joined with me in support of the final product. Liliana gathered information and passed it to our past Chair, Roberto Wenk, then he passed it to me and I did the final edit and sent it off to the webmaster and then made the last review. This past year we were fortunate to be blessed with the services of Avril Jackson who took over as the Senior Editor after serving many years in a similar position with the Hospice Information Service at St. Christopher’s Hospice. Thank you Avril! I am now Senior Advisor to take a final look at the finished products without having to spend the many, many hours necessary to produce a product that we hope you find useful.

I want to personally thank the tremendous support and contributions of the following: Dr. Roger Woodruff (Australia) for his monthly book reviews; all our Board Chairs and Liliana for monthly updates, coordination and support; Carla Ripamonti for her articles of the month; Derek Doyle for his wise counsel and articles, and each Board member past and present for their annual contributions and encouragement; Danilo Fitzler for his professionalism in producing a new and improved website and the final products for the readers and for being so kind to me through the years as I make final, final changes.

Thank you all!

Read Dr. William C. Farr’s bio here.


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