Gift to Palliative and Hospice Care

$10 million gift launches new visionary center for patient-centered palliative and hospice care

A new center will offer care for patients with life-threatening illness and extend Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s national leadership in palliative care through research, teaching, and training opportunities.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock's leadership in palliative care and its vision for improving care for people facing advanced illnesses has inspired a $10 million gift—the largest ever in Dartmouth-Hitchcock's history. The gift, made anonymously, will launch the creation of a new Center for Palliative and Hospice Care at or near Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

A home-like setting for interdisciplinary care

The 12-bed Center will be an advanced clinical facility, providing interdisciplinary, person- and family-centered care for patients with life-threatening illness and complex medical needs. Caregivers will attend to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of patients and their families in a comfortable, home-like setting.

The Center will accept patients from D-H and other health-care and hospice providers in the region and work with such providers to smooth transitions of care for patients and families. It will also offer unprecedented opportunities for research, teaching, and training and extend Dartmouth-Hitchcock's national leadership in palliative care.

"This incredibly generous gift is really a gift to our community, to our region," said Dr. James Weinstein, president and CEO of Dartmouth-Hitchcock. "It provides us an opportunity to dramatically improve care for those living with incurable illnesses and to show the rest of the country how to do the same." To cover the total estimated construction and initial operating costs of $20.5 million, Dartmouth-Hitchcock has begun an ambitious fundraising campaign to raise the remaining $10.5 million.

Norris Cotton Cancer Center provided fertile ground

Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC) has played a pivotal role in advancing palliative care at Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

"Palliative Care grew in fertile soil at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center," said Dr. Ira Byock, who led Dartmouth-Hitchcock's palliative care team from 2002 to 2013 and is a renowned expert in the field. "Oncologists here recognize that in addition to its biological complexity, cancer is profoundly personal for patients and families."

NCCC's approach to comprehensive cancer care fits naturally with palliative care principals: both incorporate shared decision making and focus on carefully matching patients' care plans with their personal needs, values, and preferences.

"Because this disease is often life-threatening, palliative care is especially important to cancer patients," said NCCC Director Mark A. Israel.  "Our clinicians have been leaders in the development of novel palliative care interventions to improve the quality of life and care of patients with cancer, especially for those living in rural areas."

In the late 1990s, the Cancer Center was one of four ENABLE demonstration sites, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to study the feasibility of integrating palliative care into routine cancer care. Since then, clinical research teams at the Cancer Center have brought rigorous methodology to the study of palliative care delivered concurrently with leading-edge cancer care. In a 2009 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the ENABLE team demonstrated that palliative care can measurably improve quality of life and decrease depression for patients with cancer.

"Opening an inpatient palliative care and hospice center is the right thing to do for our region and a critical step on the path to creating a sustainable health system," notes Weinstein. And for many patients and their families, the Center will be an important stepping stone on the very personal path of living with advanced cancer.

April 07, 2014