By Alison Ramsey
IAHPC Newsletter Editor
A man he never met helped guide the life and philanthropy of Canadian palliative care physician Dr. Kim Adzich.
“My grandfather, who died of esophageal cancer before I was born, was a soldier who endured the first gas attacks. On my first visit to his homeland, Montenegro, I climbed Mount Lovćen and felt a real spiritual connection to my grandfather. I knew he’d been there: I walked part of his path.”
That connection provoked Dr. Adzich to search for hospice work in that part of the world; he found BELhospice in Belgrade, Serbia, in 2010.
“Because it was a charity, its two physicians were not allowed to prescribe opioids, only recommend them, but availability was very limited. It took BELhospice years and years of advocacy and working different angles to bring about change.” Dr. Adzich became a monthly donor, sending enough to finance a home-care nurse and, one year, raised $10,000 in his town of Rimbey (population: 2,567), Alberta, by pledging to shave off his beard. Donors ranged in age from five to 95.
Home care for dying patients captivated Dr. Adzich from the start of his career, and it has always been a significant part of his rural general practice. “I was really drawn to it. Helping to support my patients wanting to die at home has always been a passion. That is probably why I felt so connected to colleagues doing home visits in Belgrade.”
His love of providing end-of-life care grew as he further his education. He worked as a palliative care advisor in central Alberta, educating colleagues, then shifting to a focused palliative care practice in Ontario, relocating to Vancouver Island in 2020, where he practices community palliative care and GP oncology with his team in the Cowichan Valley.
The team offers the comfort of compassionate continuity. “We are part of their oncology team at the Cancer Clinic then, when it gets to the point where treatments aren’t working, we support them at home or in hospice.”
Dr. Adzich is one of IAHPC’s most dedicated members, having joined in 2008 and been a continuous member ever since.
A well-traveled past mirrors his focus on global palliative care. “The work that IAHPC does—on international advocacy, essential medicines, opioid availability, education, sponsoring palliative care doctors from other countries—it all fits with my beliefs in building capacity in developing countries. The organization can do so much more than I could do personally, though I will always consider my involvement with my BELhospice as one of the most enriching parts of my career.”
To learn more about BELhospice Centre for Palliative Care and Palliative Medicine visit the IAHPC Global Directory of Palliative Care Institutions and Organizations.
Miguel Rodriguez is a rare type of member: someone who does not work in palliative care. Mr. Rodriguez is a management and marketing professional who has been a member continuously since 2008.
His connection to the organization, however, is both personal and strong. He is a long-time friend of IAHPC Executive Director Liliana de Lima, and his wife—Ana Restrepo—was hired in 2000 as IAHPC Membership Officer, then continued as a volunteer after retiring.
But anyone can understand his reasons for supporting IAHPC.
“I totally agree with the right of people to die with dignity, with all the supports necessary,” he says. “It’s a very difficult task to promote palliative care, to get people and institutions and government to become engaged. Talking about the last part of life and the care people need is a difficult message to transmit to people. I understand very well what you are trying to do, and I believe in it.
“Becoming a member is a way to support your goals. It’s the least I could do.”