What does it mean to be named an Emerging Leader in Hospice and Palliative Medicine?
I was incredibly honored to be named an Emerging Leader in Hospice and Palliative Medicine. It means a great deal to me to receive this honor from a community of peers whom I care for and respect deeply. I feel very grateful to be a part of a national organization such as AAHPM that is invested in identifying and cultivating the next wave of hospice and palliative medicine leaders. With this type of recognition also comes a responsibility to help our field grow and thrive. I look forward to joining a community of emerging leaders who share a common goal of advancing the invaluable mission of our field.
Describe how you became interested in hospice and palliative medicine and who/what influenced your work.
Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I first became interested in hospice and palliative medicine as a college student witnessing my grandmother deal with the challenges of metastatic colon cancer. She did not speak English but watching her care team connect with her on a human level despite the language challenges was extraordinary. Later in my internal medicine residency, I was exposed to palliative care as an intern during a challenging oncology rotation. This was at a time when palliative care had not yet grown to its current national presence, and it was my first real introduction to palliative medicine. I watched in marvel as the palliative care team guided patients and families through the darkness of illness on a human level – it was powerful and profound. To me, it was the essence of what it meant to be a clinician and healer. I knew immediately that I wanted to dedicate my life to a career in palliative medicine. After completing a palliative care fellowship, I went on to complete a fellowship in interventional pain medicine to be able to offer my patients minimally invasive solutions to alleviate refractory physical suffering. During my career I have been fortunate to have amazing mentors who have helped guide my path, such as Drs. Vicki Jackson and Jennifer Temel.
What is your vision for the future of hospice and palliative medicine?
I feel so fortunate to be a part of the hospice and palliative medicine community. Because of this, I worry about the challenges our field will face in the coming decades. How will we meet the burgeoning needs of our patients amidst the aging of our baby boom population when we currently have a shortage of palliative medicine specialists? Addressing this dilemma will be the challenge of the next wave of palliative care leaders, and it will require innovative and outside-the-box solutions. To me, part of the answer could come through harnessing the potential of digital therapeutic and artificial intelligence (AI) technology to extend the reach of hospice and palliative medicine. This is a significant interest of mine, and I co-created a smartphone app called ePAL, which demonstrated significant benefits for cancer pain outcomes, including pain-related hospitalizations. To me, ePAL is proof that, if done carefully and thoughtfully, we can utilize innovation and technology to virtually bring our patients closer to us at critical moments, and simultaneously better allocate our limited palliative medicine and hospice resources. Digital therapeutics and AI have the potential to expand hospice and palliative care delivery to meet the rising needs of both our patients and our field in the decades to come.