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University of New Mexico, Health Sciences Center
In this project, a leading expert in end-of-life care directed a comprehensive program to improve care for those who are dying in rural New Mexico. Walter Forman, M.D., professor at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and past president of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, worked with seven diverse, multicultural communities to build the New Mexico Rural Hospice Network serving rural hospice patients. The communities of Alamogordo, Gallup, Taos, Las Cruces, Los Alamos, Silver City and Roswell participated in the program, called When Cure is no Longer Possible: a Palliative Care Center for Excellence in Rural New Mexico.
In addition, the University of Mexico established the Palliative Care Information, Referral and Training Center (PERT) as a resource for the New Mexico Rural Hospice Network. The PERT provides central communication and is an organizational link for the rural hospice site. The PERT developed a palliative care curriculum addressing Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo rural culture, as well as developing awareness of local customs. As part of the effort, the PERT collaborated with the Indian Health Service Albuquerque area and the Zuni Home Health Agency to develop a Medicare-certified hospice program for the Zuni Nation, only the second Native American hospice in the United States.
Core functions of this project were training and education. The PERT office coordinated several workshops and conferences; several University of New Mexico (UNM) medical students completed the UNM Palliative Care rotation; pharmacy students had the opportunity to complete a one-month rotation in palliative care at the Senior Health Center; and Geriatric Interest Rounds were used to address a palliative care topic each month. Training at the rural sites included the certification in palliative care of at least one physician and/or nurse at each site, and each community had an active advocate for palliative care. Hospice personnel at each site received education and materials to disseminate in their community.With resources provided through the project’s communication grant, the rural programs developed their own radio advertisements directed at their specific communities.
After the Grant
The University of New Mexico maintained the PERT office, providing ongoing availability of palliative care in rural New Mexico settings. It also expanded the program to include a palliative care fellowship program, a telemedicine program for family practice residents and a section on palliative care in the Department of Geriatrics.
Promoting Excellence in End-of-Life Care was a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation dedicated to long-term changes in health care institutions to substantially improve care for dying people and their families.