Education Resource Email #4: PalliTalk

Dear Education SIG members,

Welcome to the first new Education SIG Resource Email of the year. This email provides further information on “PalliTalk” which you heard about in an email on this listserve last week.

PalliTalk is a train-the-trainer course for palliative care faculty interested in learning to teach communication skills to their fellows using simulated patients. The course will be held in Aspen, Colorado at the Aspen Meadows. The dates for the course are: September 30-October 3, 2013. The course is partially funded by a donor who wants to ensure that every HPM fellow receives intensive communication skills training during their fellowship.

The course has been created by Tony Back, Bob Arnold, James Tulsky and Kelly Edwards. This team, along with Walter Baile, developed Oncotalk back in 2002. For those unfamiliar with the program, Oncotalk was a communication skills training retreat for oncology fellows that showed impressive results in terms of how it was able to change behaviors (Back AL et al. Efficacy of communication skills training for giving bad news and discussing transitions to palliative care. Arch Intern Med. 2007; 167:453-460). This program ran from April 2002- October 2004. The same team followed this program with Oncotalk Teach, a train-the-trainer course for oncologists that focused on teaching oncologists how to teach their fellows about communication during real patient encounters. Several other courses created either by this same group or by the junior faculty involved in these original projects are now up and running including: Intensive Talk, GeriTalk, WeTalk, and Nephro Talk. Now, after all of this work focused on other fields, Palliative Care finally gets its own national faculty development program with PalliTalk.

As mentioned in the email from earlier this week, I am one of the faculty for PalliTalk. Besides giving further information about the program and its history, I thought it may be helpful to use this email to share my experience with these programs. When I was a fellow, I attended the original Oncotalk as a learner. My program director encouraged me to go and, while I loved the idea of an all-expenses paid trip to Aspen, the idea of doing role-play for a week was less attractive. I had always hated role play and did not find it helpful. What I experienced at Oncotalk, however, was a completely different role play experience. It felt safe and it was focused on what I wanted to learn. I could see myself gaining skills as I tried new things. And, unbelievably, it actually became fun! This was a transformative experience and I have since focused my career on this type of teaching, working on several of the courses mentioned above, including Oncotalk Teach and WeTalk. I find it so rewarding as a teacher because every session is different and challenging and you get to watch your group grow, learn and change before your eyes.

What you can expect at PalliTalk is an introduction to this model of teaching communication skills. The majority of the time will be spent in small groups practicing your own teaching. You will essentially be role playing how to run a role play. You will identify your learning goal as a teacher, you will then try running a role play and will time out when you get stuck. You will identify where you were stuck and will brainstorm with your group and then you will get the opportunity to try a new approach and see how it works differently. As we’ve seen in other similar programs, we expect that, by the end of the week, you will feel empowered by the new teaching skills you have worked hard to gain.

If you missed the email from earlier this week, here is the information again:


A unique train-the-trainer conference that will equip Palliative Care faculty physicians to run small group communication skills training workshops for their fellows. Using evidence-based methods based on expertise acquisition, you will experience the learning model we developed in Oncotalk, then learn the small group facilitation techniques we use. We’re aiming this course for physicians who could run a short workshop for their Palliative Care fellowship program. We encourage 2-person teams because the f2f co-mentorship accelerates your development.

4 days of learning and networking in beautiful Aspen -Monday, September 30, 2013 at 8:00 AM – Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 5:00 PM (MDT)

The faculty will include Anthony Back, Bob Arnold, James Tulsky, and Kelly Edwards, who have been working together for over a decade. Other faculty include Gordon Wood and Holly Yang (watch our blog for updates at

Details: The tuition for the course is due 30 days prior to the course and will be $1000 for the four-day course. This includes lodging, breakfast, lunch and two dinners. This course is being supported by a donor. In the next iteration, the cost will be much closer to the market value of the course. The $100 ticket fee holds your spot and is nonrefundable. We’re limiting the course to 24 participants, so apply now!


Please feel free to contact me or any of the other faculty with questions.


Gordon J. Wood, MD, MSCI, FAAHPM
AAHPM Education SIG Chair-Elect

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