Vicki Jackson, MD, MPH

Vicki Jackson, MD, MPH

Research Interests: Early integrated outpatient palliative care and palliative care communication education.



Dr. Jackson is the Chief of the Division of Palliative Care at Massachusetts General Hospital and Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School. She also serves as the Co-Director of the Harvard Medical School Center for Palliative Care. Her research and scholarly interests are in the early integration of palliative care into cancer care. Her work in education focuses on developing and evaluating palliative care curricula especially in the area of communication skills necessary for the provision of early outpatient palliative care.

Research Interests

Early Integrated Outpatient Palliative Care: I developed the embedded outpatient palliative care clinic in the Cancer Center at MGH. From the inception of the clinic, I have worked with Dr. Temel as the primary palliative care lead investigator in all of our early intervention work. Early in the course of our work, we conducted a pilot study that revealed that palliative care could be successfully integrated into the Cancer Center for patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer. We developed the subsequent randomized study of early intervention palliative care which demonstrated that patients who received early palliative care had improved quality of life, were less likely to be depressed, and prolonged survival that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. We have continued to work to understand the aspects of palliative care that are associated with these outcomes and are working to design interventions that incorporate these palliative care approaches for oncologists. We are also testing these approaches in multi-center trials as well as other clinical settings such as bone marrow transplant.

Palliative Care Communication Education: I have worked to describe the early intervention palliative care communication approaches as these have not previously been well described in the literature. Additionally I have worked to describe the communication education approaches including the use of role play in teaching communication skills. Finally, I have developed and delivered a communication curriculum for physicians to deliver prognostic information. This work has been the basis for communication education for our multi-center trials.


Selected Publications

  • Jackson V, Mack J, Matsuyama R, Lakoma M, Sullivan A, Arnold R, Weeks J, Block S. A qualitative study of oncologists’ approaches to end of life care. J Palliat Med. 2008 Jul;11(6):893-906
  • Temel JS, Greer JA, Muzikansky A, Gallagher ER, Admane S, Jackson VA, Dahlin CM, Blinderman CD, Jacobsen J, Pirl WF, Billings, JA, Lynch, TJ. Early palliative care for patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer. N Engl J Med 2010 Aug 19; 363(8): 733-742.
  • Jackson, VA, Back AL. Teaching communication skills using role-play: an experience-based guide for educators. J Palliat Med. 2011 June;14(6):775-80.
  • Jackson VA, Jacobsen J, Greer JA, Pirl WF, Temel JS, Back AL. The Cultivation of Prognostic Awareness through the Provision of Early Palliative Care in the Ambulatory Setting: A Communication Guide. J Palliat Med 2013 Aug 16 (8) 894-900.
  • Jacobsen J, Whitlock SN, Lee H, Lindvall C, Jackson V. Teaching Colleagues How to Discuss Prognosis as Part of a Hospital-wide Quality Improvement Project: The Positive Impact of a 90-Minute Workshop. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2015 Feb 7.


A landmark study on the integration of palliative care during early onset of a cancer diagnosis was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Here, lead authors Jennifer Temel, MD, and Vicki Jackson, MD, MPH discuss palliative care and the impressive study findings which showed patients experienced a better quality of life and actually lived longer than patients not receiving the same level of care at an early stage. Jim Windhorst, a stage IV, lung cancer patient describes how palliative care has helped him cope with his illness.

Back to Top