The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine celebrated the outstanding work of 44 physicians throughout the country who practice palliative medicine. Esmé Finlay, MD, at the University of New Mexico Cancer Center is one of them. “I think that I didn’t really have even the words for palliative medicine when I was in medical school,” Finlay says. Early life experiences with cancer in her family spurred her interest in the field.
Palliative medicine has been recognized as its own unique medical specialty only since 2006, although its practice dates to the beginnings of the hospice movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The AAHPM was founded in 1988 and incorporated the American Board of Hospice and Palliative Medicine in May 1996. Although initially practiced in hospices, palliative care has since moved into many different settings and now includes care for many situations, not just terminal illness. For example, anyone impacted by serious illness can benefit from palliative care. And, people admitted to the UNM Hospitals system can seek palliative care at the hospital or in the recently opened UNM outpatient palliative care clinic at which Dr. Finlay serves as director.
“Palliative care is about recognizing the human experience of illness and helping people live as well as they can live, regardless of their prognosis,” says Finlay. By helping people manage their pain and symptoms and by helping them and their families cope with negative emotions, palliative care provides an important extra layer of support. “Palliative care is usually practiced by a group of people, including doctors, nurses, and social workers, with a goal of providing whole-person care,” says Finlay.
Finlay blends her palliative training into her oncology practice. “One of the biggest challenges I have as an oncology doctor is time,” she says. But she taps her skills as a palliative doctor to balance talking about chemotherapy side effects with talking about how her patient is coping. Finlay is among a handful of doctors nationwide who are interested in improving how palliative care blends into cancer treatment. As a professor at the UNM School of Medicine, she has helped to design a new curriculum to make sure that every medical student graduating from UNM will have basic palliative care skills. She says, “It’s important for oncologists to learn which patients need more support.”
Esmé Finlay, MD, is an Assistant Professor at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, in the Division of Hematology/Oncology and in the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Care. Dr. Finlay received her medical degree from the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and completed her internship, residency and fellowship training at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. She is board certified in Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology and Palliative Medicine, and practices at the UNM Cancer Center and UNM Hospital. Dr. Finlay is interested in improving the integration of palliative and oncology care.
AAHPM is the professional organization for physicians specializing in hospice and palliative medicine, nurses, and other healthcare providers. Since 1988, the Academy has dedicated itself to advancing hospice and palliative medicine and improving the care of patients with serious illness. The Academy’s core mission is to expand access of patients and families to high-quality palliative care and advance the discipline of hospice and palliative medicine through professional education and training, development of a specialist workforce, support for clinical practice standards, and research and public policy. Learn more at: http://aahpm.org/about/about
The UNM Cancer Center is the Official Cancer Center of New Mexico and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center in the state. One of just 68 premier NCI-Designated Cancer Centers nationwide, the UNM Cancer Center is recognized for its scientific excellence; contributions to cancer research; delivery of high quality, state of the art cancer diagnosis and treatment to all New Mexicans; and its community outreach programs statewide. Annual federal and private funding of more than $72 million supports the UNM Cancer Center’s research programs. The UNM Cancer Center treats more than 60 percent of the adults and virtually all of the children in New Mexico affected by cancer, from every county in the state. It is home to New Mexico’s largest team of board-certified oncology physicians and research scientists, representing every cancer specialty and hailing from prestigious institutions such as M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University, and the Mayo Clinic. Through its partnership with Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces, the UNM Cancer Center brings world-class cancer care to the southern part of the state; its collaborative clinical programs in Santa Fe and Farmington serve northern New Mexico and it is developing new collaborative programs in Alamogordo and in Roswell/Carlsbad. The UNM Cancer Center also supports several community outreach programs to make cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment available to every New Mexican. Learn more at www.cancer.unm.edu.