Salzburg OMI Seminar in Taste of Palliative Medicine

Nov 5, 2021

The Open Society Foundation held a seminar this week titled Taste of Palliative Medicine, which brought expert faculty members from the USA and Europe to Salzburg to teach fellows the best practices in Palliative Care. 

Dr. Frank D. Ferris led the course, marking his sixth participation in an OMI seminar. Additional faculty members included Dr. Charles F. von Gunten, who was involved for the third time, and Dr. Agnes Csikos, Dr. Carl Johan Fürst, Dr. Shannon Y. Moore, and Dr. Alyssa E. Tilly, who all served as faculty for the first time this week.

“It’s All About Life:” Open Medical Institute Advances Palliative Medicine Globally

Frank D. Ferris, MD, FAAHPM, FAACE

Frank D. Ferris, MD, FAAHPM, FAACE

Course Director

Imagine a world where patients living with serious advancing illness have the care they hope for, and their suffering is addressed quickly so they can continue to live fully. Because of the success of modern medicine, there is a pressing need to assure physicians know how to help their patients function, eat, and sleep well, and minimize their symptoms and stress. The medical research is clear: when patients get this early and consistently, they live better and longer. The pressing need is to get this into medical practice. Palliative Medicine is the formal name for this new specialty. It is practiced in partnership with a patient’s primary medical team or at the specialist level. While Palliative Medicine is now a formally recognized medical specialty or subspecialty in North America and Western Europe, that is not the case in many Eastern European and Central Asian countries. The Open Medical Institute is working to address this gap.

38 physicians from 17 countries participated in the “Taste of Palliative Medicine” seminar at Schloss Arenberg, led by faculty from North America and Western Europe (October 31 to November 5, 2021). Most of the fellows had little or no previous training. The weeklong course applied the latest science and research. The new Palliative Care Interdisciplinary Curriculum (PCIC) requires physicians to watch online videos that include real patients and the doctors treating them, as well as to read core material. This permits prestigious and highly skilled palliative medicine specialist faculty to focus on the application of the facts and to practice the skills in the care of patients and families. Whether in the lecture hall or in small group sessions, the emphasis was on individual participation. On the last day, physicians presented a personal reflection project highlighting, “What Palliative Medicine Means to Me”. Finally, to facilitate the dissemination of this new development in medicine to their home countries, participants were given access to all the online PCIC videos and content, as well as the faculty presentations so they can adapt and translate for their own use.

The seminar fellows were asked to anonymously share a word or phrase that communicates their response to the course.

Physicians were asked to write a brief statement about the course to help others know about their experiences. “A taste of palliative medicine and you never want to do anything else,” Ladislav Kabelka, Czech Republic. “This seminar does not teach us just how to treat our patients, it teaches us about life. It is a life-changing opportunity,” Marina Calamac, Serbia. “Working in small groups was great and very useful! It really matters!” Julia Bora, Romania. “This seminar is a life-changing seminar. I am now a doctor with new perspectives,” Elena Neko, Albania, “Participation in the course led me to reschedule the curriculum and content of the palliative care lectures at Tajik State Medical University,” Anonymous. “This course is a very important experience in my practice. It has very useful material that I will use in my daily practice,” Nino Khupenia, Georgia. “Emotionally and intellectually challenging, but worth every minute,” Anonymous. “This course was magnificent. In my opinion, this course is brilliant. It gives a great opportunity to doctors and gave a lot to me. The course covered everything that had never been explained to me before. Now I know how to combine analgesics in pain syndrome, how to talk with patients and their relatives, and many other things,” Gulnoz Khakimova, Uzbekistan. Participating physicians were surprised by how much they learned using the small-group techniques. They were also surprised about how much they learned about themselves, and the perspectives of patients and their families.

The Open Medical Institute held its first palliative medicine course in 2003, in which I was part of the faculty. Receiving more than 150 applications for this week’s course demonstrates two things. First, the OMI has been a leader in disseminating Palliative Medicine knowledge and skills globally for nearly 20 years. Secondly, there is still unmet need.