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Symposium focuses on ‘Innovations in Palliative Care Research, Education and Communication’


INDIANAPOLIS — The Mary Margaret Walther Program in Palliative Care Research and Education, part of the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, will host a two-day symposium, “Passages and Promises: Innovation in Palliative Care Research, Education and Communication,” Nov. 17 and 18 at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Palliative care is a patient-centered approach that addresses the physical, emotional, practical, psychological and spiritual issues related to cancer and other life-threatening diseases at the time of diagnosis, as well as during and after treatment. Palliative care improves the quality of life of patients and their families across the disease continuum.  

New York Times bestselling authors Mark Nepo, “The Book of Awakening” and “7,000 Ways to Listen,” and Gail Sheehy, “Passages” and “Passages in Caregiving,” will join national palliative care experts on discussions exploring the latest research for improving communication among patients, family members and clinicians in the context of palliative care and advanced cancer and other advanced diseases.

WHAT: Walther Program Palliative Care Symposium

WHEN: 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Nov. 17 and 18

WHERE: IUPUI Campus Center, 420 University Blvd., Indianapolis, Room 450 B-C


  • Day One (Nov. 17) is open to researchers, clinicians, educators, patients/family members and practice organizations in the community and will offer plenary presentations by Mark Nepo and Gail Sheehy as well as workshops and small-group discussions led by national experts in palliative care (Robert M. Arnold, M.D.; Amber E. Barnato, M.D., M.P.H., M.S.; Vicki Jackson. M.D.; and Timothy E. Quill, M.D.). Registration ends Nov. 7.
  • Day Two (Nov. 18) is by invitation only. A group of local investigators will participate in a “think tank” with the national palliative care experts to develop pilot project proposals, a limited number of which will be funded for up to $50,000 by the Walther program. Participants were selected from an application process that concluded in August.

Palliative care is a rapidly growing medical specialty and focuses on the conversations required to reach a shared understanding of care goals. Preliminary studies have suggested that cancer care combined with palliative care leads to a better quality of life, fewer depressive symptoms and a longer life expectancy.

Palliative care specialists work as part of a multidisciplinary team to coordinate care and typically consist of doctors, nurses, registered dieticians, pharmacists, social workers and psychologists. Palliative care specialists may also make recommendations to the patient’s primary care physician about the management of pain and other symptoms.

“This symposium is bringing together some of the very best researchers and advocates for palliative care in the nation for two days of workshops, keynote address and consultation,” said Richard M. Frankel, Ph.D., director of the Mary Margaret Walther Palliative Care Research and Education Program, professor of medicine at the IU School of Medicine, a senior research scientist at the Regenstrief Institute and associate director of the Center on Implementing Evidence-Based Practice at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center. “Indianapolis is blessed with a plethora of clinicians and educators who provide care and training in palliative care, and our research community is growing with the advent of the RESPECT Signature Center, located within the IU School of Nursing, and now the Walther Program in Palliative Care Research and Education.”

The Mary Margaret Walther Palliative Care Research and Education Program was created by a $3.4 million grant from the Walther Cancer Foundation. The program will support the efforts of researchers and educators at the IU Simon Cancer Center to develop innovative studies that ultimately lead to earlier integration of palliative care into conventional cancer care.