Keith Swetz, MD MA FACP FAAHPM – Inspiring Hospice and Palliative Medicine Leaders Under 40

This post is from one of the Inspiring Hospice and Palliative Medicine Leaders Under 40. Keith Swetz, MD MA FACP FAAHPM, 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?
Dr. Thomas J. Smith. Tom has been a tremendous mentor, life coach, and model of exceptional and compassionate clinical care. During my fellowship at Virginia Commonwealth University, I was fascinated by his vast wealth of knowledge (oncology, palliative care, and everything, in general). Moreover, Tom was approachable from my interview day to times he was on service with me, or even when not on service. This accessibility and transparency was not only evident to colleagues and house staff, but was evidenced by his patients who had complete confidence and faith in his care and recommendations. Tom’s empathy and genuineness is visible to all who work with him, and Tom continues to be a wonderful support to me from afar. Although Tom is prominent in our field, I feel it is important to mention others who may not have as visible in AAHPM or the field, but who have been exceptional role models and influences on my character development and passion for HPM—Bob Yanoshak (family med/HPM at Geisinger Wyoming Valley), Jarrett Richardson (psych/HPM/sleep/IntMed) at Mayo, and J.O. Ballard (humanities & hem/onc) at Penn State. Paul Mueller (Ethics/GenMed) has played an instrumental role in my academic development and I will be eternally grateful to him for his support of my career development during my first decade as a physician. Lastly, Arif Kamal continues to be an extraordinary peer mentor and friend who continues to challenge be to be the best scholar I can be in this field.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I continue to strive to provide high-level, compassionate patient care, and that will remain important. As I approach 40, and as the field’s workforce size is limited, I see leadership as an important skill to cultivate for many of us in the field. I see these next 5 years as a time to work on developing leadership and team-building skills. I strongly desire to be a valued, reliable contributor to multiple teams (clinical, educational, research) that I am a part of. Increasingly, this will take shape as primary palliative care education to clinicians at all levels, but it will also take the shape of mentorship and promotion of academic and scholarly development of others in this field. I see myself as part of a team where I am valued for who I am and for the talents I possess, and where I can utilize my skills and gifts to their fullest potential. Lastly, I see my family as 5 years older as well—with my children then being 15, 13, 12, and 10. I want them to continue to develop confidence in who they are and be proud of what they represent and believe in. I want to be the best husband I can be and will be married then for 17 years. I want my wife to be proud to have me as her husband, as she is now and was the day we got married. This is critically important to prevent burnout and maintenance acceptable work-life balance.

What is the best advice you have ever received?
When I began on staff as an HPM physician after fellowship in 2008, Tom Smith told me, “You don’t do your patients, the field, or your family any good by staying past 6PM every night.” Although I know there are days when it is necessary, that perspective is helpful to me in determining what really needs to be done on a given day and helps me to prioritize my efforts appropriately.

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