By Alison Ramsey
IAHPC Newsletter Editor
In three years, 203 people from 52 countries have completed a Fellowship in Palliative Care designed for low- and middle-income countries. In October, the fellowship won the 2021 Leadership in Education Award, announced by the European Association for Palliative Care and European Palliative Care Academy.
The deadline to apply for the next session, which starts February 2022, is November 30, 2021. The cost is just $100 (INR 7500). Details are available here, as well as the downloadable brochure and application form.
Run by institutions in India, Bangladesh, and the United Kingdom, the fellowship is particularly useful for program managers and trainers who wish to launch, entrench, or expand palliative care. Several graduates have done just that.
“It never dawned on me that life would change after the fellowship—my perceptions on how I view the world and things, and how confident I would become after discovering my own capabilities,” says Dr. Madonna Bacorro of the Philippines, who only signed up because of social pressure to learn more.
“Right after the intensive, week-long start of this masterclass, we were given a task that drove me to finish—in just one week—a 10-year plan that zeroed in on education, training, and service of my community at the Tondo Medical Center,” she adds. “The fellowship has also opened a lot of doors for my personal academic growth and endeavors.”
“The content is revised after each course, based on feedback from participants,” says Dr. Suresh Kumar, a key organizer of the course and director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Community Participation in Palliative Care and Long-Term Care in India. “It has become more focussed on practical issues on the ground. More locally relevant assignments were added in 2021 to compensate for missing field visits due to COVID limitations.
“Participants work on indicators and audits relevant to their situation, based on general guidelines outlined by faculty,” he adds. “One key area explored is quality improvement and monitoring: many participants tell us that the resulting skills and knowledge they acquired is being used to strengthen existing programs.”
Dr. Harjot Singh Birgi, part of the first group in 2019, reports that since he received his certificate, his team held awareness activities, launched a Foundation Course in Palliative Care with a team from the Institute of Palliative Medicine, conducted workshops on palliative care and availability of morphine, and is now part of a group running a certificate course and a fellowship course in palliative care.
“Because of [course leaders] Dr. Suresh, Heather Richardson, and Libby Sallow, we were in a better state to start Sri Guru Ram Das home-based palliative care services in rural Amritsar, in the Punjab region,” he adds. “We even established the first hospice in Mallu Nangal, Amritsar, catering to 11 villages with a combined population of 32,756. The five-bed hospice will provide both inpatient and home-based services free of cost to those who are in need.”
What began as a hybrid (online and offline) course, was forced to go fully online in 2021. “We realized that the course can be effectively delivered online,” reports Dr. Kumar. The session starting in February will be online, but there are plans to include in-person elements at a session later in 2022.
The course kicks off with one full week of classes, then “meets” on the first Monday of each month for five months. Each candidate spends an added 120 hours over six months for course-related learning—including online sessions with their personal mentor, accessing resources, preparing presentations, and doing assignments. Additional workshops, by international experts, are optional.
Participants are divided into 10 to 12 students who form a Whatsapp group. The entire batch forms another Whatapp group, which becomes a platform for students to exchange ideas and support each other. Fellows from the previous batches act as mentors to candidates in following batches.
“My working knowledge and experiences were limited compared to the other participants,” says Dr. Maureen Lukman of Indonesia, who had just become oncology manager at a private hospital in South Tangerang when she enrolled. “But that did not deter me; it encouraged me to gain as much as possible from the program... I am now collaborating with experts to design comprehensive cancer care involving a multidisciplinary team. We are finalizing the design-and-build stage for the oncology sub-unit, as well as developing palliative care.”
This fellowship may be just the beginning of a worldwide movement.
“The structure of the fellowship is easily transferable to other languages,” notes Dr. Kumar. “We hope that it will evolve into a strong global platform for participatory learning in palliative care.”
To learn more about the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC), visit the IAHPC Global Directory of Palliative Care Institutions and Organizations.