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Lenox Hill Hospital Implements Palliative Care Program

Providing support, comfort and expert treatment for individuals living with advanced illness is the goal of a new palliative care program offered by Lenox Hill Hospital.

Palliative Medicine is interdisciplinary care aimed at the relief of the pain, symptoms and stress of serious illness. The goal is to ensure the highest quality of life possible for patients and their families. Palliative Medicine treats serious illness regardless of prognosis, and patients can receive it at any point in their illness, with or without curative treatment. Often, the palliative care team's mission is to provide care to patients who are not eligible for, or accepting of, hospice care but still need a holistic approach when facing a life-limiting illness. 

The program is directed by Wendy Edwards, MD who previously served as the Chief of Palliative Medicine at St. Vincent’s Hospital.   She brings more than 25 years of primary care experience to the practice of Palliative Medicine.  She and Nurse Practitioner Annie Mei specialize in pain and symptom management in the context of advanced or serious illness.

 “Our program in Palliative Medicine joins the well established Ethics Consultation Service at Lenox Hill Hospital.  Together we are committed to improving the quality of care of patients and providing support for their families through an interdisciplinary approach,” Dr. Edwards said.  “The core members of the care team are the patient, family, nurse, physician and social worker. Other members of the team may include therapists, aides, pharmacists, clergy, a bereavement specialist and volunteers. These professionals blend their strengths together to meet the medical, psychosocial, spiritual and overall needs of the patient and family.”

Hospitals across the country are implementing palliative care programs at a rapid pace, according to the Center to Advance Palliative Care.  The number of programs in U.S. hospitals increased by 125% from 2000-2008.  Recent medical studies showing the benefits of palliative care provided in conjunction with standard “aggressive” treatments makes the call for expansion of palliative services even more compelling.

A major component of the palliative care program at Lenox Hill is to teach doctors-in-training the communication and medical skills necessary to provide the highest quality compassionate care to patients with serious illness.

"Ten years ago there were almost no hospital palliative care programs in the nation. This continuous growth trend is essential because if we are going to meet the needs of our aging population, every hospital must have a program," said Jack Ansell, MD, Chairman. Lenox Hill Hospital Department of Medicine.