Grants in Action

Volume 24, Number 1: January 2023

IAHPC asks recipients of its scholarships to report on the events they attend. In October 2022, McGill University granted nine IAHPC members virtual access to the McGill International Palliative Care Congress.

‘It Reminded Me of My Obligation’ as an Advocate

Kathleen Grimm, director, Supportive Care & Palliative Care, Erie Country Medical Center
Buffalo, New York, USA

The congress reminded me of my obligation to expose the clinicians-in-training that I teach to think globally as advocates.

Human essentials that caring societies should provide to all—adequate nutrition, housing, and safe neighborhoods, relief of suffering, compassionate care, and the recognition of the unmitigated dignity of each person that is living with a serious illness—this was the foremost takeaway for me, both personally and professionally.

While science and research presented were intriguing, the themes of social justice, relief of suffering, and compassionate care reminded me of the bonds that tie practitioners of palliative care together across countries and cultures. The poignant and passionate presentations and panel discussions were grounded in the shared humanity of relieving suffering of those who are seriously ill around the world.

‘My Information Management and Communication Skills Were Enhanced’

Denis Opio, social worker and palliative care specialist, St. Vincent De Paul Community Development Organization (SAVIDIDO)
Kampala, Uganda

The congress strengthened my advocacy and information management skills in palliative care concepts and practices. It also enhanced my skills and knowledge on how to craft communication strategy on palliative care to promote awareness and education among all stakeholders, including the media, religious leaders, the general public, and public servants.

I will use my knowledge and skills acquired from the conference to:

New Ideas Challenged My Practice

Gregorio Zúñiga Villanueva, assistant professor, McMaster University
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

The congress expanded my understanding of how palliative care can be approached and delivered. Speakers pushed the envelope in creating models of care, revisiting old ideas, and proposing new ways of thinking. Although each of my patients’ cases is unique and poses its own challenges, medical management becomes repetitive over time. Learning new approaches and points of view have the positive effect of dislodging me from my comfort zone.

Dr. Libby Sallnow showcased results from the Lancet Commission on the Value of Death. One of my key takeaways was the idea of death systems, shaped by each person’s cultural experiences, that impact the role of health care providers and their patients. I was surprised to see how, despite feeling we are experiencing a very intimate moment (the death of a patient), we are in a patient’s periphery. This knowledge helps me stay humble: I might be at the center of events when death occurs, but patients and families are made of bigger and more complex structures that help them navigate death.

In Dr. Heather Richardson's presentation, I learned about St. Christopher’s Hospice newly developed Lantern Model of Nursing. We are in the process of creating a pediatric hospice, and using up-to-date philosophies of palliative care and learning from institutions with a sound trajectory—like St. Christopher’s—can help us provide best care. The Lantern Model talks about finding the person in every patient, a reminder we are dealing with people and not just their conditions, which strained health care systems often forget.

‘New Knowledge Improves My Advocacy with Patients & Providers’

Jessica Geiger, palliative care pharmacist, OhioHealth
Columbus, Ohio, USA

I will use the knowledge that I gained at the congress to continue my advocacy for patients with their primary teams to improve symptom management and patient-centered communication. This also extends to teaching patients how to advocate for themselves. This includes discussing the appropriate use of opioids directly with patients, who may be fearful about taking it, by talking them through the pros and cons. I also talk through the options involving opioids with providers outside of our speciality, as some of them experience the same fears. Knowledge that I gained will also be applied in the palliative elective course for pharmacy students that I teach, as well as when I speak at state, national, and international conferences.

The session that stands out the most to me was the one that focused on heart failure. I deal mostly with cancer diagnoses and it was nice to get a refresher on appropriate symptom management for patients with heart failure.

‘I Found Exclusive Opportunities to Advance My Research’

Amir Radfar, director of research, Avicenna Medical and Clinical Research Institute
Encino, California, USA

I connected with stakeholders from all over the globe, and hope to maintain these relationships. I learned from others’ experiences, shared my expertise and interests, and found exclusive opportunities to advance my research for the betterment of palliative care.

In my institute, we will be expanding our educational and training activities to achieve the highest level of competence and enhance skills to ensure the development of a new generation of palliative care experts. Through new knowledge acquired, I will design training plans for health care professionals in areas of need. The knowledge and insights I acquired will assist my organization to promote quality comprehensive care, efficiency, and effectiveness.

Congress Follow-Up: Fostering partnerships

Justin Woods, palliative care physician, Sacred Heart Medical Center Spokane
Washington, USA

I connected with people who are interested, as I am, in developing palliative advocacy partnerships in both the US and abroad. I am also working with others I met online at the congress to develop a palliative telehealth coalition. Since the congress, I have reached out to the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, which said it would be willing to work with me to develop a special interest working group of telemedicine for palliative care. I also became an individual member of a telemedicine equity coalition aimed at growing access. [Read more about Dr. Woods’ advocacy work in Meet New Lifetime Members.]

Doing a Presentation Was a Highlight

Regine Roche, palliative physician specializing in anesthesiology and treatment of pain, at HUEH (State Hospital of Haiti)
Petionville, Haiti

A highlight was the opportunity to share my presentation, “Creativity and Originality of Palliative Care in Haiti: Living end-of-life at home.” Goals of the presentation were to impart an understanding of the importance of learning palliative care at the community level, and integrating the need for palliative care to respond to a society’s culture, spirituality, and economic reality. I spoke of challenges, such as feelings of isolation while in hospital, distress experienced by loved ones, the lack of opioids and trained carers, and feeling overwhelmed when in mourning. I also offered solutions, such as reinforcing good practices among community health workers and helping loved ones take better care of themselves. My team and I created educational materials used to train 300 community home care providers as well as nurses in palliative care practices.

Photo by Thamizhp Parai Cheguevara. Used with permission.

New Methods for Pediatric Care Shared

Hashmath Farhaana, palliative care physician, Pallium India Trust
Trivandrum, Kerala, India

I was able to learn a lot regarding newer and advance methodologies, especially in the field of pediatric palliative care, as our organization has a budding service for children. After returning home, I shared what I learned individually, during my free hours, with all members of my team, which comprises palliative care physicians, nurses, social workers, psychologists, and physiotherapists. We also discussed how to put the new knowledge into practice at our setting, and also in our country.

To find out more about IAHPC’s Program Support Grants, including IAHPC Scholarships and Fellowships, please visit our websiteThrough these programs we support projects and individuals around the world, especially in developing countries in Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

You can help palliative care workers attend and participate in congresses and courses by donating to the IAHPC Scholarships Campaign.

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