Jeff Klick, MD – Inspiring Hospice and Palliative Medicine Leaders Under 40

This post is from one of the Inspiring Hospice and Palliative Medicine Leaders Under 40. Jeff Klick, MD, was selected based on his involvement in AAHPM, educating others about hospice and palliative medicine, participation in charitable work, and mentoring of students or residents. The honoree was then asked who inspired him over the course of his career. We are sharing some of his answers in this post. Check back regularly for posts from other leaders.

Who has most influenced your work in hospice and palliative medicine and what impact has he or she had?
I have always been drawn to helping children and families in distress. Early in my career, I formed relationships with amazing Pediatric Hospice and Palliative Care (P-HPC) clinicians Dr. Chris Feudtner, Dr. Tammy Kang, and Gina Santucci, PNP at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). At that time, P-HPC was an emerging field and I found myself drawn to every aspect of it. Managing suffering in all of its forms was the core of why I became a doctor. Tammy, Chris, and Gina taught me how to do this as a professional within a team.

I found myself with tremendous mentorship from leaders in Pediatrics such as Drs. Lou Bell and Steven Ludwig at CHOP. They showed me how to patient in following my passion and how to be a leader without taking myself too seriously.

My first major contribution came a year into my career when my team started the third Pediatric-HPM fellowship in the country at CHOP. During this process I formed relationships with Drs. JoAnne Wolfe (P-HPC at Boston Children’s and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) and Sarah Friebert (P-HPC at Akron Children’s). JoAnne and Sarah have provided mentorship, encouragement, and collaboration in many projects. They also provided a vision for career paths in academic pediatric hospice and palliative medicine.

I then attended the AAHPM Fellowship Summit where I formed relationships with Dr. Rodney Tucker (HPM at University of Alabama at Birmingham) and Sally Weir (at the time with AAHPM). They encouraged me to get engaged in AAHPM where I found my passion for developing communities and energy around specific ideas. AAHPM has provided a tremendous community for me, to which I am indebted.

I have been blessed to work with many leaders and wonderful people in HPM. From leaders in adult-focused HPM, such as Susan Block (Chair, Department of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute) and Tammie Quest (Director, Palliative Care Center, Emory University); to my many friends and collaborators who make up the tremendous community of pediatric palliative care; to the leaders within the academy who create such a great collaborative environment to foster our field; to my team at CHOA which makes the real work of caring for kids possible and rewarding every day; to my former fellows who continue to teach me so much.

Each of these leaders proved instrumental in engaging me in leadership roles throughout my career. I have found myself with opportunity after opportunity to lead in a field that I am passionate about. Along the way, I have been influenced by many incredible people. I truly wish I had space to name them all.

In my mind, though, the greatest influence has always been the children and their families. It is their experiences, courage, and raw life stories which drive the passion in all of us. If you let them, they will all have a tremendous impact on your life.
They all taught me that leadership is about collaborative practice. If managing suffering is why I became a doctor, the joy of collaborative practice is why I became a leader. HPM offers me a place to practice both of these passions.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Four years ago, I took on the task of creating a center of excellence in Pediatric Palliative Care at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University School of Medicine. I have been joined in that task by many tremendous clinicians—Nicolas Krawiecki, Khaliah Johnson, Erin Mullaney, Meghan Tracewski, and Maura Savage—each giving up a lot of themselves to join this vision of creating a center that can serve the state of Georgia and the Southeast region in improving the care for kids with serious illnesses. We have come a long way, affected countless lives, and developed a tremendous program, but we have big goals and a long way to go to meet them.

The next five years will be focused and dedicated to that vision (and being a good husband and dad). We will have to see where we go…

What is the best advice you have ever received?
This probably came early in life following a season of pee-wee football. After spending the whole year lobbying the coach to “just throw me the ball,” I got a special award…it was a bumper sticker that simply said “lighten up.”

In our clinical and programmatic work, we find ourselves in intense situations. In this field, we are very lucky to have many strong leaders who are excellent at solving problems and moving solutions forward. This fact, however, can significantly add to the intensity, as we are always focused on fixing things and not just being still. Being able to manage and cope with that intensity and to be calm in the craziness—to lighten up when it matters most—has proven to be an essential skill. I just wish it was always easy to do.

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