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Award Aims to Increase Diversity in Palliative Care

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Amy Charley

Gloria Kreps
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PITTSBURGH – A $250,000 award from The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations will fund a cross-cultural multi-center initiative led by the UPMC Palliative and Supportive Institute to address disparities in providers who are trained and skilled in offering palliative care to patients nearing the end of life. 


Increasingly, palliative care is being offered at hospitals across the country, but palliative care specialists are most often Caucasian. 


The award intends to change that landscape. Over two years, the UPMC Palliative and Supportive Institute will collaborate with three minority-serving medical schools to train minority physicians in providing palliative care.


“Our workforce should reflect the growing population of minority older adults, many of whom will benefit from palliative care,” said Yael Schenker, M.D., M.A.S., director of the Palliative Research Center (PaRC) at the University of Pittsburgh and co-principal investigator of the Arthur Vining Davis project. “Our hope is that through these key collaborations we can start to address some of the disparities in access and quality of palliative care services. We are deeply grateful to the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations for making these efforts possible.”


As part of the project, palliative care physicians from UPMC will visit three institutions — Morehouse School of Medicine, Howard University College of Medicine and the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine — to mentor internal medicine and family medicine faculty as they incorporate palliative care into student and resident education. UPMC faculty also will provide web-based educational materials and other consultative efforts — case reviews, pharmacy updates, for example — to enrich the palliative care education of physicians-in-training at these outside institutions. Additionally, the UPMC team anticipates building upon this newly funded project by collaborating with Duke University on racial and ethnic disparities in palliative care.   


“Our goal is to help medical faculty embed palliative care into their resident student education. We hope that doing this will lead learners to improve their palliative care skills, and we hope that some of these trainees will choose to pursue a career in palliative care,” said Robert Arnold, M.D., F.A.A.H.P.M., medical director, UPMC Palliative and Supportive Institute. “To make this happen, we will train faculty at each of these institutions to serve as local palliative care mentors to students from underrepresented groups.”


The funding is part of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations’ focused efforts to advance humane, respectful end-of-life care. UPMC is one of six organizations selected as Arthur Vining Davis Foundations Designated Partners for palliative care funding from 2018-2020. 


“The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations are happy to support the efforts of UPMC in addressing diversity in the palliative medicine workforce,” added Michael Murray, Ph.D., president of the Foundations.