A personal message

Volume 23, Number 2: February 2022

By Liliana de Lima
IAHPC Executive Director

I first met Dr. Derek Doyle at a conference in London in 1988, where he was one of the speakers. I was entranced and could not believe that I was having such an amazing opportunity to listen to him, Robert Twycross, and Cicely Saunders when they were breaking the mold of medicine. It was one of the most amazing and inspiring events in my life.

The last time I saw Derek, when our family visited Edinburgh. Photo used with permission.

Derek had an impact on me: this soft-spoken, strong man talked about the essence of palliative care, about dignity and respect, and the fundamentals of palliative care. We had no phones or recording devices so I took notes as fast as I could on what he and the others had to say. I still remember having a conversation with him during a tea break, while holding a piece of chocolate cake on my fork. In my excitement and my hands moving carelessly, the morsel of cake went flying and landed on his lap, soiling his shirt and pants, and he laughed about it! I was so embarrassed that I could have dug a hole to hide in—here was I throwing cake at Derek! He was a great sport about it.

After returning to Colombia where—along with a group of wonderful friends and colleagues—I started the program at La Viga Hospice in Cali, Derek sent us copies of the first editions of the Oxford Textbook of Palliative Medicine, a publication he launched and edited through three editions. It was such a badge of honor to have his textbook in our library, and we treated it as our most precious resource. There were very few palliative care publications at the time: this one sustained us and gave us the evidence we needed to establish care plans for our patients.

I saw Derek a few more times, at the EAPC congresses and in Montreal at the International Congress on Palliative Care. By that time, I was working with the IAHPC in my role as Executive Director.

Derek contributed immensely to the IAHPC. He donated his book The Platform Ticket, a jewel that we distributed freely to our members. He co-chaired the IAHPC Committee on Essential Medicines for Palliative Care, which culminated in the IAHPC List of Essential Medicines in Palliative Care. He coauthored the The IAHPC Manual of Palliative Care with Dr. Roger Woodruff. He also authored the very popular resource Getting Started: Guidelines and Suggestions for those Starting a Hospice/Palliative Care Service, which Tania Pastrana and I updated a few months ago. I am glad that we were able to honor his work in this way.

I saw Derek in Edinburgh while vacationing with my husband and daughters several years ago. Derek invited us to lunch and then took us on a nice, brief walking tour, pointing out historical places in that beautiful city. As the afternoon set in and we got ready to say our goodbyes, he said, “Goodbye Liliana—this will be the last time we see each other.” That struck me, because such a phrase completely changes the meaning of the farewell and I felt a pang as I knew that he was right. It was indeed our last time together, although we kept in touch continuously as he contributed in his role as an IAHPC Lifetime Board Member. I am deeply grateful for having had the opportunity to serve under his leadership and learn so much from him. Thank you, Derek, for all your gifts to me, to the world, and to the IAHPC.

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