AAHPM Visionary: Frank D. Ferris, MD FAACE FAAHPM

Frank D. Ferris, MD FAACE FAAHPM
Executive Director, Palliative Medicine, Research and Education, OhioHealth, OH 

Who has most influenced your work and what impact has he or she had?
Mary Vachon, RN, PhD from Toronto is the person how most influenced my early career. She continues to be a model advocate for patient-centered care and a stellar visionary leader. Close to completing my fellowship, Marilyn Lundy, RN and Shirley Herron RN both enticed me to work with Dr. Larry Librach to establish the first home-based palliative medicine services and work collaboratively with the visiting nursing services in Toronto. Under their leadership, and collaborative relationships I developed with many colleagues through the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, we grew one of the largest physician services serving patients across Metropolitan Toronto, and a national model to guide palliative care across Canada, and beyond. Since moving to the USA in 1999, Dr. Charles von Gunten has been a great partner in my domestic work. Together with Dr. Linda Emanuel and later Dr. Jamie Von Roenn we developed the Education in Palliative and End-of-life Care (EPEC) and EPEC-Oncology curricula. Internationally, I have been most guided by Dr. Kathleen Foley and Mary Callaway who challenged me to facilitate the development of palliative care skills and leaders in now more than 40 countries.

What does it mean to you to be named a Visionary in Hospice and Palliative Medicine?
I have spent 30 years in the practice of palliative medicine domestically and internationally. In all settings, I have constantly been guided by the needs of patients and their families to develop team-based care in hospitals and homes, and national and international models and strategies to increase palliative care capacity. To be named a visionary is public recognition of the importance of placing the needs of patients and families at the root of all we do; to create effective teams to imagine what is possible; and then to bring those visions to life. It has been incredibly rewarding to see dreams become reality, and to watch people all around me grow to be successful.

What is your vision for the future of Hospice and Palliative Medicine?
I believe Hospice and Palliative Medicine (HPM) is the next tsunami wave of the modern medical revolution. Over the 70 years since penicillin became widely available, there has been incredible growth in therapeutic options. Today, people are now living for months to years with advancing illnesses, and multiple needs that they want to have addressed so they can live life as fully as possible, for as long as possible. Recognized in 2006 as a subspecialty by 10 of the 24 parent boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties, HPM is emerging as one of the most important subspecialties in health care. I’m not at all bothered by the current lack of a workforce. It is just a mark of the demand. Not unlike when the tide goes OUT before the Tsunami, it is temporary. Every day, in the eyes of the medical students, residents, and fellows who are REQUIRED to have hospice and palliative care education, I see their enthusiasm. I read their reviews that MORE TIME should be required because of how important it is to them in learning how to be good doctors. I hear them say this is the BEST EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCE they’ve ever had. It doesn’t seem a large stretch to think the number of people specializing in our field, and incorporating this into daily practice, will increase dramatically in the next 20 years.


Frank D. Ferris 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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