Mission of the Walther Program in Palliative Care Research and Education

The overall mission of the Walther Program in Palliative Care is to improve communication, informed decision-making and outcomes for people with cancer and other advanced diseases based on cutting-edge research and implementation of evidence-based improvement interventions.As the average lifespan of the U.S. population has continued to increase, so too has the number and complexity of options that are available for treatment.  Patients, clinicians and loved ones now face difficult questions and decisions about the quantity and quality of life that can be achieved with various treatment modalities, and importantly, what to do when cure is no longer possible.  The field of palliative medicine offers those with serious illness relief from physical pain and psychosocial support that is optimally aligned with patients’ values and goals, particularly at the end of life.  Understanding the various needs and perspectives of those involved in delivering or receiving palliative care requires the kind of interprofessional team science approach that the Walther program supports.

Advanced cancer patients often experience unalleviated physical and /or psychological suffering, which can negatively affect the quality of life they have remaining.  Many of the most pressing challenges in effectively helping patients receiving palliative care deal with their suffering are related to gaps in communication among patients, family members and loved ones, healthcare providers / teams and increasingly complex healthcare systems. Ensuring patient-centered communication, defined by the Institute of Medicine, as an essential ingredient of high-quality care in all interactions with the health system remains a largely unrealized goal in palliative care. Research and interventions designed to facilitate patient-centeredness and ensure that patients approaching the end of life receive care that attends to their biological, psychological, social and spiritual well-being are critically needed and forms the core focus of the program.