When a person has a serious illness palliative care can provide relief from symptoms and stress, improving the quality of life for both the patient and the family.
To provide palliative care takes three things: high-quality services, education for families and health care providers, and those trained in providing such care -- a workforce, says Michael Raphelson, MD, medical director of Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan and a clinical assistant professor in WMed’s Department of Family and Community Medicine.
A $1 million gift from Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan
will be the seed for an endowed palliative care fellowship at the medical school. The medical school hopes to raise $4 million to fully fund the endowment dedicated to training competent and compassionate palliative care physicians for the foreseeable future.
The fellowship would provide training for up to two physicians seeking certification in geriatric and chronic illness management care after their completion of residency.
Dr. Raphelson says the new fellowship at WMed will help fill what he said is “an extreme shortage” in the number of certified palliative care providers in the U.S. He says there now are a little more than 5,000 certified providers despite an ever-growing need and a U.S. population that is aging rapidly.
“Never before have our demographics demonstrated the need more,” Dr. Raphelson says. “Ten thousand people turn 65 every day in this country and there are more families in Michigan with a member over the age of 65 than there are with children. There are 5.1 million people in the country with Alzheimer’s and there will be 7 million by 2020, and our elderly population is going to increase to 25 percent of the population by 2030.”
Dr. Raphelson says he believes the new fellowship will also lead to increased awareness about palliative care among medical students and residents in Kalamazoo and spark interest among them and physicians in the community about broadening their skill set. “I feel this community has everything it needs to provide high-quality palliative care training."