Life-affirming care

S. Wright Caughman

"During the January snowstorm that shut down Atlanta for five days, Emory Healthcare employees kept our hospitals open for patients. I am proud to lead such a dedicated team." -Wright Caughman

One of the fundamental goals of our health care teams at the Woodruff Health Sciences Center (WHSC) is to prevent and ease suffering and to offer the best possible quality of life for patients and their families.

This goal also applies to the relatively new specialty of palliative care, which focuses on patients' physical, psychological, spiritual, and social needs. Unlike hospice care, which is intended for patients in the last months of life, palliative care may be beneficial for patients at any stage of illness.

Emory's palliative care teams include doctors, advanced practice nurses, social workers, and chaplains, who work alongside nutritionists, pharmacists, and others to help patients with the practical burdens of illness.

They work closely with primary care physicians to control pain and relieve symptoms and side effects. They help provide emotional and spiritual support and counseling in making difficult medical decisions. They help patients navigate a complex health care system and can coordinate home care referrals and assist with identifying future care needs. And they focus their care not only on the patient but also on the patient's family and caregivers.

Palliative care affirms life by supporting the patient and family's goals for the future as well as their hopes for peace and dignity throughout the course of illness. In essence, palliative care is simply good patient care.

In this issue of Emory Health, I am happy to share an overview of our palliative care program with you as well as many other ongoing efforts that we are undertaking to improve health and affirm life. As a former high school teacher myself, I am particularly proud of Emory's outreach to Georgia's health and science high school teachers and students, also featured in this issue. To those teachers attending the Georgia Science Teachers Association in February, I extend a special invitation to you to partner with us to help Emory spread the lessons of health to young people statewide.

I'd like to close my winter message by congratulating our fine editorial staff. We recently learned that Emory Health has received a 2010 Robert Fenley Writing Award from the Association of American Medical Colleges for our cover story on progesterone research, written by Sylvia Wrobel. From the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, we received an Award of Excellence for special interest magazines and Special Merit Recognition for our slideshow on Emory Medishare's volunteer efforts in Haiti. Still, the best recognition of all comes when you, our readers, take the time to read our publication and learn about our efforts to promote health and well-being for our patients, faculty, staff, and students. For that, I thank you.

S. Wright Caughman 
Interim Executive Vice President for Health Affairs

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