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Educational and Professional Development

In addition to our robust clinical offerings, our curriculum includes unique opportunities to develop communication skills and skills as an educator and leader. 

Communication skills training: In palliative medicine, words are our tools and communication is our procedure. We are committed to preparing our fellows to have goals of care discussions throughout the continuum of serious illness, discuss comprehensive advanced care planning, break difficult news, and communicate with professional colleagues about challenging clinical scenarios. 

 •  Longitudinal communication skills training with standardized patient: To equip fellows with skills they can practice during rotations, we have designed a longitudinal communication skills curriculum in which fellows practice their skills with a standardized patient in sessions run by our core faculty. Topics include introducing palliative care, talking about code status and addressing the desire for miracles, among others. 

 •  Development as an educator: Palliative medicine physicians are constantly educating patients, families, professional colleagues and the public about what we do and why it matters. Teaching well is a leadership skill that we seek to cultivate in our fellows through didactics and practical experience. 

 •  Teachers of Tomorrow: Fellows will participate in the Teachers of Tomorrow program, a nationally recognized, award winning faculty development course offered by UMass Chan faculty that provides a model of systematic educational planning for effective and efficient integration of teaching into clinical practice, enhances foundational teaching skills for clinical reasoning and habits of life-long learning, and provides practice opportunities to apply and assess new teaching skills. 

 •  Bedside and didactic teaching: Fellows will have the opportunity for clinical bedside teaching for our medical students, internal medicine residents, and oncology fellows who rotate on our service. They will also teach fellows in other programs during joint didactics with geriatrics, oncology and neurology. There are a number of forums for additional lectures including Medicine Grand Rounds (weekly, hosted twice per year by our division), Family Medicine Grand Rounds (weekly, hosted once per year by our division), and Oncology Grand Rounds (weekly, hosted once per year by our division).  

Professional development: When on University inpatient consultation service, fellows will spend two hours per week with individualized teaching from the program director and associate program director. These sessions will cover both core curricular topics (e.g., use of methadone, overview of hospice) and topics of particular interest to the fellows (e.g., ethics case review, global palliative care). Fellows will have monthly meetings with the program director for debriefing, case review, and mentorship.  Fellows attend the annual American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM) assembly, and receive a CME budget to offset the costs of conference attendance and other academic activities. 

Wellness and resiliency: Developing and maintaining ways to keep ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually well is central to living and working well. Our fellows have access to confidential sessions with health psychologist Tina Runyan, PhD, to discuss any issues with which they are grappling during training. Nancy McCool, our clinical social worker on the University Inpatient Service, has a particular interest in building resiliency and has spearheaded monthly team wellness challenges and a practice called Grata Friday in which each team member documents 10 things for which they are grateful. There are several sessions each year dedicated to wellness during our weekly IDT meetings. Fellows can also participate in monthly Schwartz Rounds, which are forums for panels of clinicians to reflect on the emotional experience and challenge of caring for patients. The audience consists of multidisciplinary peers from the medical center, many of whom share their own experiences of caregiving when in discussion with the panelists. 

Leadership opportunities: There are endless opportunities to lead initiatives in the hospital/clinic setting, medical school, and community, and we work with fellows to find pathways that will help them develop the skills needed to serve as leaders once they graduate. 

Additional educational opportunities: Fellows can join the hospital’s Ethics Committee for monthly meetings, and attend monthly Schwartz Rounds.  Fellows will participate in the Opioid Safe-Prescribing Training Immersion (OSTI).