AAHPM Visionary: Jean S. Kutner

Professor of Medicine and Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Chief Medical Officer, University of Colorado Hospital, CO

Who has most influenced your work and what impact has he or she had?
Patients and their families, mentors, colleagues and personal experiences with illness within my family have all influenced my work. My work in hospice and palliative medicine has, from the beginning, been most influenced by patients and families. Early experiences in caring for people with serious illness and their families ignited my passion, inspiring me to contribute to finding a better way to care for people with serious and advanced illness. This commitment to “finding a better way” has taken the route of contributing to the evidence as an investigator, mentoring, and building research, educational and clinical programs. Every patient and family that I see on our hospital-based palliative care service inspires me – either because things are going well and they are getting the care that we would hope for, or because there are gaps in care that drive an ongoing desire to generate the evidence and improve care. I am indebted to my early mentors, particularly to John Steiner, MD, MPH and Dennis Jahnigen, MD, who pushed, supported and inspired me in my early research career. I have been fortunate to have amazing colleagues and collaborators and an outstanding team that has facilitated every aspect of what I have been able to contribute. From a personal perspective, living through my mom’s experience with, and eventual death from, Parkinson’s disease brought home to me just how hard it is to achieve quality care in the face of progressive illness, even when your adult daughter is a hospice and palliative medicine physician.

What does it mean to you to be named a Visionary in Hospice and Palliative Medicine?
I am deeply honored and humbled to have been selected by my peers for this award, and to be recognized along with such illustrious colleagues. There are so many who have been instrumental to advancing the field of hospice and palliative medicine, it seems daunting to limit this recognition to only 30 people. I see this award as recognition not just of me, but of the individuals and teams with whom I have had the privilege to work over the course of my career.

What is your vision for the future of Hospice and Palliative Medicine?
In my envisioned future, everyone with serious advanced illness and their families will have access to high quality, evidence-based palliative and hospice care across all settings, ages and diseases. We have made significant progress towards this goal, and we should pause and reflect and celebrate these advancements. At the same time, we must focus on this envisioned future and the multiple strategies and tactics needed to achieve this goal.

Jean S. Kutner 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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