Oregon Health & Science University has created a new faculty position and program aimed at expanding bedside education in palliative care for future generations of health care professionals. The Miles J. Edwards Chair in Professionalism and Comfort Care has been formed to teach health care professionals at all levels of training how to provide some of the most important care in a patient's life: comfort care in life's final chapter.
"Palliative care is a method of treating the symptoms of disease when it is not possible to eliminate the cause. For instance, treating pain or shortness of breath in the final days of life," explained Edwards, OHSU emeritus pulmonary physician and ethicist. "After recently being diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer, I have a deeper insight into the patient's experience than ever before. What I now wish to offer to future generations are the bedside skills to compassionately communicate and more effectively treat the suffering of those with life-threatening illness."
The OHSU Center for Ethics in Health Care has more than a decade of experience in hosting statewide educational programs for health care professionals from a wide range of disciplines. This chair makes it possible to expand bedside teaching and collaborate in the modeling of best practices in comfort care.
To date, the OHSU Center for Ethics has received 84 gifts in tribute to Dr. Edwards, totaling nearly $500,000 to establish the chair. Ultimately, the goal is to raise the necessary $2.5 million to complete funding for the chair.
BUILDING A LEGACY
To assist in the establishment of the new faculty position, OHSU has enlisted the assistance of Robert Richardson, M.D. Richardson is a longtime Portland physician and ethicist responsible for establishing the ethics service at Kaiser Permanente Northwest and the inpatient palliative care consultation service at Kaiser Sunnyside Hospital. He will assist in the formation of the new OHSU program and participate in the national recruitment of a professional to fill the role once the endowment is complete.
"Robert is the perfect choice to assist in the formation of this important interdisciplinary program," explained Susan Tolle, M.D., director of the Center for Ethics in Health Care at OHSU. "In addition to his vast experience and knowledge, Robert shares many common bonds with the program's namesake, Miles Edwards. Both of them are pulmonary and critical care physicians who transitioned into medical ethics. They both served in the military. They also are close friends. Robert is the right person to partner with us in building the first phase of this integrated educational program."
"I am deeply honored to be asked to partner with palliative care and ethics center colleagues at OHSU in building Miles Edwards's legacy," said Richardson. "I share his goal to build a strong bedside educational program across health care disciplines within the university and throughout the state of Oregon. Miles has asked us to partner with others and establish this program, which will someday benefit so many of us and those we love."
MILES EDWARDS M.D.
Miles Edwards, M.D., has a longstanding interest in compassionate patient care with strong roots in the Northwest . After attending Willamette University, he enrolled in the University of Oregon Medical School (now OHSU). He served as head of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at OHSU from 1967 to 1983. He helped establish the Center for Ethics in Health Care at OHSU in 1989 and became a certified medical ethicist in 1991. After retiring from OHSU in 1995, he remained a professor emeritus and volunteered as a clinical ethics consultant while also teaching medical students.
Over the years, Edwards has written 28 publications in various medical journals. His last publication is considered one of his most significant papers. The research, which was published in the December issue of the Journal of Palliative Care, contradicts both public and professional bias against the use of morphine in the final stage of life for patients with breathing difficulties. The study suggests that some patients who receive an appropriate level of morphine may live slightly longer and more comfortably because their fear and struggle for breath are reduced.