Friday, December 9, 2011

Robert Leffert, MD, Palliative Care Memorial Lecture established


CARE AND COMFORT: Back row, Schwamm, left, and Nicholson. Front row, from left, Leffert, Jackson and Back


To care for Robert Leffert, MD, as he faced a terminal cancer diagnosis, Vicki Jackson, MD, MPH, chief of the MGH Palliative Care Service, had to learn about all aspects of who he was – not only an MGH physician and Harvard professor, but also a decorated veteran and kid who grew up in Brooklyn. In honor of Leffert’s memory and to support the work that helped him and his family through his final days, the first Robert Leffert, MD, Palliative Care Memorial Lecture was held Nov. 29 in the O’Keeffe Auditorium.

Leffert, who died from complications of melanoma in 2008, was chief of the MGH Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and the MGH Surgical Upper Extremity Rehabilitation Unit. The lecture was created through support from the Leffert and Schwamm families – including Leffert’s daughter, Lisa Leffert, MD, chief of the Obstetric  Anesthesia Division and vice chair of Faculty Development for Anesthesia, and her husband, Lee Schwamm, MD, vice chair of Neurology. Both MGH physicians spoke at the event, along with Jackson and Brit Nicholson, MD, senior vice president and chief medical officer.

"The MGH really was the center of my father’s universe,” said Leffert.  “It was very complicated for him to be sick and die in the institution where his life’s work had been. I cannot imagine what it would have been like without Vicki Jackson and her colleagues.”

Added Schwamm, “Palliative care is as important to the care of our patients as any of the high-tech treatments we provide. We can’t think of a better way to remember and honor Bob than to help support this work.”

The inaugural lecture, “Connecting with Patients:  Where Art Meets Science,” was presented by Anthony Back, MD, an oncologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash. Through anecdotes and research study results, Back explored the gap between how clinicians believe they approach difficult interactions and what patients perceive, emphasizing that effective patient-provider communication is vital to quality care.

Read more articles from the 12/09/11 Hotline issue.

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