OMI Impact: Advancing Palliative Care in Albania

May 17, 2023

During the 2022 OMI ELNEC Palliative Care Conference, Irena Laska, one of the participants, proposed replicating this course for colleagues in Albania. As Executive Director of the Mary Potter Hospice in Korce, Albania, her passion has been to advance palliative care throughout her country to improve care for all with cancer and other serious illness. And she knew that to meet this goal, she would need to provide education for doctors and nurses working in hospitals and clinics, as well as educators who would be preparing the next generation of practitioners. To that end, she invited influential clinicians and faculty from throughout Albania to attend a three-day course held May 2 to 4, 2023, in Korce. Three faculty from the OMI course, Patrick Coyne and Carrie Cormack from the Medical University of South Carolina and Judith Paice from Northwestern University, joined Irena and Gerla Koleci from the Mary Potter Hospice to present the ELNEC curriculum. There were 53 participants representing medical oncology, pediatrics, internal medicine, hospice and other clinical areas. Several deans of nursing and palliative care lecturers also attended so they might integrate this content into their curricula.

Attendees were actively engaged during the entire seminar and they described the course as highly influential, transforming the way they think about care for those with serious illnesses. Each described ways in which they might implement the information clinically and share the education with other professionals. And each expressed gratitude for the opportunity to participate in such an important, high-quality event.

Irena’s passion and drive served as the foundation for this successful effort, yet the conference would not have taken place without the support of the Mary Potter Hospice and the Little Company of Mary Sisters. Importantly, an additional source of funding came from a generous supporter of the OMI. Fuhaba Ishii, an OMI faculty dinner host, met the faculty and participants during the ELNEC course in Salzburg. She was so impressed by the plan to advance palliative care in Albania that she provided funding for this effort. It is through this support, and the efforts of dedicated professionals, that palliative care will be implemented throughout Albania, ultimately improving the lives of those with serious illness and their loved ones.