Renowned palliative care expert joins Providence Health & Services

IraByockMD_capProvidence Health & Services announced this summer that one of the nation's foremost experts in palliative care and a leading advocate for transforming care through the end of life is joining the health system to lead its new Institute for Human Caring. Providence St. Peter Palliative Care Service will be an important partner in the Institute, initially bringing innovation to the field by expanding palliative care to outpatients, the focus of this year’s Christmas Forest Fund-A-Need.

Ira Byock, M.D., will serve as chief medical officer of the institute, which will further Providence’s longstanding commitment to providing “whole person” care. The institute’s focus goes beyond the medical aspects of illness to encompass the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of patients and their families. Providence, the third largest not-for-profit health system in the country, is widely recognized for its premier hospice and palliative care programs across the West Coast.

“As a sought-after expert in palliative care, Dr. Byock could work anywhere in the country. We are very excited that he has chosen to join Providence,” said Rod Hochman, M.D., president and CEO of Providence Health & Services. “We believe he is the perfect fit for Providence and our deep commitment to caring for the whole person. His leadership and expertise will enable us to take that commitment to the next level.”

The institute will offer resources, training and support to help clinicians have more open and meaningful conversations with patients and their families about their plans and preferences for care through the end of life. Based at Providence TrinityCare in Southern California, the institute’s programs will support clinicians, patients and families in communities across the Providence system.

Dr. Byock brings a distinguished record of experience and expertise in the field of palliative care. He previously served as director of palliative medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and chair of palliative medicine at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine. He is the author of influential books aimed at guiding and empowering patients and families, including The Four Things That Matter Most, Dying Well and The Best Care Possible.

Through his leadership of the institute, Dr. Byock aims to challenge the persistent crisis in how to care for Americans in the last phase of life. Studies show most Americans would like to spend their final days at home, surrounded by those they love. Yet about 70 percent spend their last days in hospitals or nursing homes.  

“We know that when clinicians understand people’s underlying desires and concerns they can work more effectively with patients and their families to develop treatment plans that best meet their needs,” said Dr. Byock. “It’s already part of Providence’s DNA to see each patient as a unique individual and a whole person. Our new institute will take that commitment even further.”