As you can see throughout this issue, we are celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the IAHPC Newsletter!! For this special edition, Alison asked some of us to share personal stories of our time with the IAHPC.
Readers may know that before moving to the USA, I lived and worked in Cali, Colombia, where in 1988, with a group of palliative care enthusiasts, we started the first freestanding hospice inpatient facility in Latin America, called La Viga. I was always looking for learning opportunities, so in 1990 I went to Adelaide, Australia, to attend the World Congress on Pain organized by the International Association for the Study of Pain. There, I was fortunate to meet doctors Eduardo Bruera, Kathy Foley, and Roberto Wenk. Roberto invited me to a meeting he was organizing in San Nicolas, Argentina, and I gladly accepted. The year after, several palliative care workers from Latin America traveled to Roberto’s hometown for the first meeting of what later became the Latin American Association for Palliative Care (ALCP is its Spanish acronym). After this meeting in Argentina, Eduardo extended me an invitation to visit his palliative care program at Grey Nuns Hospital in Edmonton, Canada. I had the luxury of visiting his program twice over the course of several years, during which both Roberto and Eduardo also traveled to Colombia to visit the hospice La Viga.
In 1995 Eduardo took on the position of Chair of the newly formed palliative care department at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, based in Houston. Coincidentally, in that same year, my husband accepted a position at Compaq Computers, and we also moved to Houston. I did not have a working visa at that time, so I started a fellowship in pain and policy studies at the Pain Research Group in the University of Wisconsin, under the guidance of David Joranson. This was an amazing opportunity to learn from David’s expertise; it became one of the core experiences of my professional life.
After receiving a green card, I worked with Eduardo in the newly formed Palliative Care Department in the MD Anderson Cancer Center, until one day in 1999, when he called me to his office and asked if I was familiar with a global organization called the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care (which used to be called the International Hospice Institute and College). What came to my mind was the IAHPC newsletter (which used to be printed in hard copy and sent via snail mail), so I asked him if this was the one he was referring to, and Eduardo said yes.
He further explained that he had been elected as Chair of the Board of Directors of this IAHPC and that he accepted as long as two conditions were met: granting him the ability to transfer the IAHPC to Texas (it was then based in New Jersey), and to name the Executive Director. The Board approved Eduardo’s conditions. He asked me if I would be interested in initiating the process to apply for the position of Executive Director, and I gladly accepted the challenge. I went through a series of interviews with three Board members: Roger Woodruff, William Farr, and Janet Jones. And this is how it all started for me as the Executive Director, a position I have held for almost 21 years. By this time, when I joined the IAHPC in 1999, the newsletter was already four years old, and Bill Farr served as senior editor.
After we transferred the IAHPC to Texas, we hired Ms. Anne Laidlaw from Alou Web Design in Canada as the IAHPC webmaster. She designed the organization’s first website in 2000 and, in 2001, we started publishing the newsletter electronically. Unfortunately, we lost some of the early electronic editions, but we still have most of the early editions available on our website (starting in 2004). We have gone from just over 3,000 subscribers then, to almost 9,000 now!
The newsletter has proven to be a wonderful tool to disseminate a broad range of information and increase awareness about hospice and palliative care around the world, learn about new developments, and bring attention to your programs, the challenges that many of you face, and the progress you have been able to achieve.
We are grateful for the many contributors and board members who have supplied us with outstanding content each month. Special thanks to our previous senior editors Bill Farr and Avril Jackson for their service and contribution, and to the current senior editor, Alison Ramsey, who does an amazing job every month.
Many thanks as well to the directors, officers, advisors, members, and readers who contribute news and articles to every edition. Thanks also to our webmaster and web designer, Mr. Danilo Fritzler, for his excellent work in formatting and distributing the newsletter. Each month Danilo receives the copy from Alison, transforms it into a website version and an e-mail version, which he then sends to our subscribers!
Finally, an interesting fact: the three palliative leaders I met in Adelaide in 1990 have all served as Chairs of the IAHPC. Isn’t that amazing?
I stand in awe and gratitude for being so privileged to work with these individuals and for having them as mentors. And this lucky streak continues as I serve under the leadership of Lukas Radbruch, the current IAHPC Chair. It has been an amazing journey and an opportunity to serve in a field, and in an organization, that I love.
Until next month,
Liliana De Lima, MHA