AAHPM Visionary: Christina M. Puchalski, MD MS FACP FAAHPM

Christina M. Puchalski, MD MS FACP FAAHPM
Director, George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health; Professor of Medicine and Health Science, George Washington University, Washington D.C.

Who has most influenced your work and what impact has he or she had?
Betty Ferrell, PhD, MA, FAAN, FPCN, a former AAHPM visionary, who is a colleague, friend and mentor, has been one of the most influential persons in my work. Betty, a Professor and Division Director of Nursing Research and Education at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California, is a leader in palliative care research and education. She has an ability to take a vision and solidify it into well-structured and sustainable programs. We have worked closely together since 2007 developing clinical care guidelines, education models, training for spiritual care and palliative care, among other projects. She is a phenomenal leader and has helped me realize my vision through the work that we do together. When I first worked with Betty to develop guidelines, she recommended we focus on hospice and palliative medicine, since she felt this field would be open to and understand the importance of spiritual care. This entire work of interprofessional care has flourished within our field. Because of this, it is now extending from hospice and palliative care into other disciplines, such as oncology, primary care, geriatrics and other areas. I am profoundly grateful to Betty for her leadership.

What does it mean to you to be named a Visionary in Hospice and Palliative Medicine?
I am honored to be named a visionary, but also know that this recognition represents all those who have supported this vision and who have carried this vision forward in their own work. That lends even more credibility to the importance of spiritual care and palliative care. When I first started talking about spirituality, it was relatively unknown and there were no established models. At the beginning, I felt like I was a lone voice. The AAHPM was one place where that voice was heard and not only heard, but amplified. The AAHPM and the field of hospice and palliative medicine offered opportunities for collaboration to develop this important area. To be recognized by those same colleagues who supported this vision initially and used their influence to support spiritual care means a lot. The AAHPM has always been what I consider my professional home, which makes this an incredible honor.

What is your vision for the future of Hospice and Palliative Medicine?
I have recently become more involved in global work in hospice and palliative care medicine. In the future, I hope we focus on two things: increased specialized palliative care practitioners in the US and globally, but also increased training for generalist palliative care, so the principles of hospice and palliative care are understood and practiced by all clinicians, not just specialists. I believe the standards of care in hospice and palliative care medicine are excellent models of care in general. If we train clinicians from all fields, including physicians, nurses, chaplains, social workers, counselors, physical and occupational therapists, music and art therapists, then spiritual care will be fully implemented in care systems and the suffering of all patients and families can be attended to. It is then that we will have fully spiritually-centered compassionate systems of care.

Christina M. Puchalski is one of 30 individuals who have been named a Visionary in Hospice and Palliative Medicine by AAHPM for their 30th Anniversary in 2018. Learn more about the Visionary recognition and view a list of all current and past Visionaries.

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