End-of-life care involves a more holistic approach


Hamilton, ON - Over the past few years, Dr. Pungi Dorasamy, has expanded his view of end-of-life care to include a more holistic approach.

An internal medicine and respirology specialist at McMaster University's Faculty of Health Sciences and attending physician at Hamilton Health Sciences, Dr. Dorasamy says that it has become obvious that physicians are being trained in curative medicine, and their view of palliative or end-of-life care is centred on the physical aspects of patients' well-being.

However, he says, end-of-life care involves the emotional, social, ethnic and spiritual needs of patients and their families. It is therefore essential that primary care physicians and specialists as well as other health-care providers, undergo training to understand and deal with the issues surrounding the dying patient.

Dr. Dorasamy is one of five physicians from the five schools of medicine in Ontario, receiving a fellowship of $25,000 for each of five years, awarded by Associated Medical Services, Inc. (AMS) for care at end of life. AMS supports a wide range of scholarly activities through various grants and awards in the areas of the History of Medicine, Bioethics and Education.

"It is my goal, in collaboration with colleagues in Hamilton and at other medical schools in Ontario, to develop an ongoing education program which will equip students, physicians and other health-care providers with the necessary tools in addressing all the complex issues surrounding death and the dying patient.

"I can envision that this will ultimately lead to a better model of care in Ontario, for dying patients and their families."

Dr. William Seidelman, President and CEO of AMS said: The AMS Educational Fellowship in Care at End of Life is designed to create an environment whereby caring for the dying patient is considered a normal part of the everyday practice of a teaching ward. "We hope that by 2010 the clinical experience of every medical student and medical resident in an Ontario teaching hospital will include proper care at end-of-life as a normative part of the clinical learning experience," he added.

Each faculty of medicine, together with their hosting academic hospital, is participating in the project with a contribution-in-kind equivalency of $25,000 per year, which will provide the Fellow with the time and support required to fulfill the terms of the Fellowship.

Susan Denburg, associate dean, academic, in the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University, says that this fellowship is a means to stimulate innovative programs to teach students about patient care at the end of life through a clinical and networking model.

"This initiative represents an exciting partnership amongst McMaster's Faculty of Health Sciences, Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph's Healthcare, and as such is likely to have a significant impact across all our institutions."

Originally from South Africa, Dr. Dorasamy lives with his family in Ancaster, Ontario. He is a Fellow of the College of Medicine of South Africa, a Fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians and the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons of Canada.

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