AAHPM Visionary: Mary Lynn McPherson, PharmD MA MDE BCPS CPE

Mary Lynn McPherson, PharmD MA MDE BCPS CPE
Professor and Executive Director, Advanced Post-Graduate Education in Palliative Care, Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, MD

Who has most influenced your work and what impact has he or she had?
When I considered this question I realized that it takes a village to keep this girl afloat! I like to surround myself with smart people, and they have all influenced me! I learn every day from my patients, family, students (face-to-face and online), residents, fellows, and colleagues. Professionally, the “Palliative Care Education and Practice (PCEP)” from Harvard Medical School (Dr. Susan Block and colleagues) was a transformative experience, a perfect marriage of my interests in education and palliative care. I am deeply indebted to Dr. Chuck Hodell (UMBC) for helping me to become an awesome instructional designer, and Dr. MJ Bondy for helping me transform my passion for teaching into an online experience. There are so many palliative care clinicians that have inspired me and made me a better practitioner, starting with the hospice team at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore in 1986 (“come, let us teach you about hospice”), to Drs. Charles Von Gunten and Frank Ferris at San Diego Hospice years ago, to my good friend, the incredibly brilliant Dr. Mellar Davis. Dr. Davis unfailingly steps up to the plate and honors my impassioned pleas to review my struggles to write clearly and accurately on opioid conversion calculations. I ask him for tough love, which he gives quite handily! Last, I an incredibly grateful for the wickedly talented faculty who are helping me to take palliative care education to the next level, reaching learners from every corner of the globe. Many, many thanks to all.

What does it mean to you to be named a Visionary in Hospice and Palliative Medicine?
It goes without saying that I am incredibly honored and humbled to have been selected as a Visionary in Hospice and Palliative Medicine. I feel very lucky to have been practicing for the past 30 years in hospice and palliative care, and to have witnessed the explosion in evidence that guides our practice. Palliative care has grown in quality and quantity during that time, currently embracing fully-developed teams in both health care institutions, and increasingly, in the community. My inclusion is particularly poignant, being a pharmacist, since hospice and palliative care truly does take a team to tend the bio-psycho-social needs of the patient and family. Perhaps I’m a little greedy, but I wish I could see what the next 30 years holds as well!

What is your vision for the future of Hospice and Palliative Medicine?
My vision (well, at least my wish list) has several elements. First, I believe that we will continue to more fully develop interprofessional, transdisciplinary teams to provide the best possible care to patients and families. Second, if we’re going to practice as a transdisciplinary team, we need to train as a transdisciplinary team. This includes didactic and experiential training at our individual professional schools, and post-graduate continuing professional development. I’m not happy unless everyone I encounter walks away 10% pharmacist. Similarly, I’ve learned some pretty good strategies from social workers, nurses, chaplains, physicians, aides, respiratory therapists and so forth. Along the same line, I believe EVERY health care professional should possess primary palliative care skills. After all, we have pretty solid evidence that everyone is going to die some day! The last thing on my wish list is that we have a more consistent continuum of care model for palliative care and hospice. The missing piece in my mind, is community-based and outpatient palliative care. This has certainly been a hot topic at national meetings in the last couple of years; I hope our future is a model that starts with the diagnosis of a serious illness and includes care from that point straight through to the end of the road, rolled out in a seamless, and integrated fashion.

Mary Lynn McPherson 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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