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New BJC Hospice medical director puts emphasis on quality of life
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New BJC Hospice medical director puts emphasis on quality of life

Patrick White, MD, has joined the BJC Hospice team as chief medical officer (CMO). He was the co-chief medical officer of the University of Pittsburgh’s affiliated hospice in 2013, where he served as an inpatient medical director and participated in outpatient care teams. 

An Ohio native, Dr. White received his medical degree from The Ohio State College of Medicine and Public Health. He trained in internal medicine at Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University and completed a fellowship in hospice and palliative medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. He is a PhD candidate in the University of Pittsburgh Clinical and Translational Sciences Program. 

Dr. White is one of the first physicians in the country to pursue a PhD in comparative effectiveness research focused on improving end-of-life care. He has been actively involved in clinical research to help reduce pain and nausea in patients with advanced cancer. He partnered with a leading researcher from the World Health Organization to design projects to reduce nausea in patients with advanced cancer with a goal to improve quality of life.

Dr. White was selected as one of the inaugural “Hospice and Palliative Medicine Inspirational Leaders Under 40” by the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, and he is one of the seven physician leaders nationally selected for the inaugural Hospice Medical Director Leadership Council.

Dr. White believes that listening to patients and their families to find out how they’ve lived and what they value is vital to mapping out care and making decisions that serve the patients’ best interests. He approaches the practice of medicine as a way to improve the quality of a patient’s life, not simply a way to extend it.

It’s an approach informed by the latest research and lessons learned early on from his pulmonologist father. As a child accompanying his father on house calls, Dr. White saw the open and trusting relationships his father developed with patients and their families. “My father got to know patients and their families, sometimes over years,” he says. “I saw how they trusted him.” 

Dr. White is excited be part of the BJC Hospice team, whose patient-centered and family-centered approach meshes with his beliefs. “I’m impressed by the dedication shown by this staff,” he says. He’s also impressed by those who support BJC Hospice’s work through volunteering and fund raising, especially Friends of Wings, the fund-raising group for Wings, the pediatric hospice program.
In addition to patient care and research, one of Dr. White’s top priorities as BJC Hospice CMO is educating physicians and the medical community about hospice and palliative care.

“Historically, ‘hospice’ has been a sort of scary word for physicians, and it can still carry stigma,” he says. Doctors may fear that referring a patient to hospice is akin to giving up hope. Consequently, patients may not be referred to hospice until death is imminent. 

Earlier referral to hospice and palliative care can allow the hospice team to make patients more comfortable, improve their quality of life and work more closely with the family. 

“It’s ironic, but we often hear families say, ‘We wish we would have known about you sooner,” Dr. White says. “Quality of life is really about empowering the patient and their family.”

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