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Dr. Halvorson recognized with Palliative Care Award

Stephanie Halvorson, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Hospital Medicine, has received the 2009 Virginia I. Sznewajs Faculty Excellence in Palliative Care Award in recognition of her outstanding work caring for patients with life-threatening illnesses.

"The care of loved ones in the final days creates lasting memories for a family," said Dr. Halvorson. "The Sznewajs family knows this all too well, and I am very humbled to be recognized in this way."

"The Sznewjas family created this award to recognize the outstanding system-wide palliative care Ginny Sznewjas received as an OHSU patient over an 18 month period," said Mary Denise Smith, RN, CNS, ACHPN, Palliative Care Clinical Nurse Specialist.  "Dr. Halverson is being recognized for her expertise in supporting patients and families during a time of transition, her role modeling of expert communication and symptom management and education of medical students and residents in this important area of medical practice."

The daughter of a Minnesotan pastor, Dr. Halvorson used to accompany her father on some of his hospital visits. "As a hospitalist who is often confronted with patients at the end of life, I now see how much I draw on those experiences," she said. Dr. Halvorson graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2001 and entered residency at OHSU the same year.  She now heads a hospital team consisting of a resident, an intern and as many as three medical students at any one time. The team format allows Dr. Halvorson to provide patient support, even when she is not personally available. 

"It's essential to me that every patient has the time with medical staff that they need. Not every question is thought of when I am able to be there, nor can family members always be together to hear information at one time."  Frequently it is the medical students who can devote the time to being with the family and answering their questions.

"It is a blessing to do this in an academic environment," said Dr. Halvorson. "One of the most rewarding parts of the job is being able to teach by example in situations where, for many students, this is their first experience of death."

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