2017 Summer Research Program Reflections – Advances in Palliative Care and Hospice Research: Improving the Quality of Care for Patients with Life-Limiting Illnesses

July 31, 2017

The blog is following the student participants in this year’s Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program. Each student will be providing their own reflections from a Summer Research Program Seminar Series event.

By Evelyn Shen, Undergraduate, Anthropology: Global Health & Environment, Washington University in St. Louis

Dr. Patrick White MD, HMDC, FACP, FAAHPM, grew up following his dad around, like most kids do—however, his dad was a community pulmonologist, and Dr. White spent much of his childhood doing home visits with his father. He came to appreciate what the visits meant to those patients and families. Even if they were incurable, symptom management was so important to them For Dr. White, it was powerful to see healthcare done well.

This idea of truly caring for patients rather than merely treating a disease stuck with Dr. White as he entered medical school, knowing he wanted to go into palliative care and hospice. As he says, “We’re the nicest people! There aren’t any jerks at our conferences!”

Palliative and Hospice care are both interdisciplinary and focused on quality of life. Hospice, however, is for patients with a terminal prognosis of less than 6 months and ensures a high degree of home support which may not be guaranteed with palliative care.

Dr. White decided to pursue a PhD in Clinical and Translational Research at the University of Pittsburgh to gain the credibility he needed to pursue research in a field that was severely lacking in literature. His goal with research is to look at common questions that the average doctor isn’t getting information about—like how to properly use steroids—and turn them into randomized clinical trials to generate evidence backed by data to inform medical practice.

20-30% of all the money the US spends on healthcare offers no clinically meaningful benefits to patients. But with palliative care doctors like Dr. White keeping an eye on the bigger picture and focusing in on maintaining the patient’s quality of life, we can decrease healthcare costs and significantly improve patient experiences.


This post is part of the “Summer Research Program” series of the Institute for Public Health’s blog. Subscribe to email updates or follow us on Twitter and Facebook to receive notifications about our latest blog posts.

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