Palliative Care

Annual Douglas West Memorial Lecture

The West Lectures address key issues faced by patients and families in the setting of serious illness. Past lecturers included distinguished medical experts such as Dame Cecily Saunders (founder of the modern hospice movement) and Robert N. Butler (“father of U.S. Geriatrics); writers and journalists such as Anna Quindlen (New York Times, “One True Thing”), and Gail Sheehy (New York, Vanity Fair, “Passages”); persons and their loved ones living with serious illness such as Amy Berman (senior program officer at the John A. Hartford Foundation) and Lucy Kalanithi (widow of author Paul Kalanithi); and medical writers such as Dr. Siddartha Mukherjee (“The Emperor of All Maladies”) and Atul Gwande  (“Being Mortal”).

The lecture features a distinguished health care professional in the field of palliative care. In the past, experts such as Dame Cecily Saunders, founder of the modern hospice movement, and Christine Cassel, MD, a renowned expert in geriatric medicine, medical ethics, and quality of care. We have also heard from well-known journalists such as Anna Quindlen and Gail Sheehy. Amy Berman, a registered nurse and senior program officer at the John A. Hartford Foundation, delivered the 2013 lecture to a hushed audience on how she has chosen to live with terminal breast cancer. Our largest turnout yet was for Atul Gwande, MD, surgeon and author of Being Mortal, in 2015. View our lectures

Susie West: An Extraordinary Contribution

For many years, full-time volunteer, Susie West has worked tirelessly to support the Hertzberg Palliative Care Institute at The Mount Sinai Hospital, doing all manner of tasks from developing the Institute’s database of donors, to serving tea and coffee for patients and family members in the Wiener Family Palliative Care Unit.

Like many of her fellow donors and volunteers, Mrs. West first came to appreciate the value of palliative care through the illness of a loved one. Mrs. West’s husband, Douglas, suffered from Sjögren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease characterized by insufficient moisture production in certain glands of the body. In the last 18 months of Mr. West’s life, he was cared for by Diane Meier, MD who later became the Hertzberg Institute’s founding director.

“Of all the doctors we saw over the five years that he was really sick, Dr. Meier was the only one who held his hand and really listened,” says Mrs. West. “She talked about palliative care, but I didn’t really know what she meant. I just saw how she gave Doug his dignity, which was so important to him.”

Soon after Mr. West’s death in 1995, Mrs. West established the Douglas West Endowed Memorial Lecture in Geriatrics and Palliative Care in his memory, and in honor of Dr. Meier.  Since its inception, the lecture has had great success as a forum for discussing palliative care, aging research, and health care policy.

For Mrs. West, her children and her grandchildren, the lecture is an annual opportunity to come together, remember a husband, father and grandfather, and to increase awareness of palliative care. “It’s the best money that I have ever given to this institution [Mount Sinai] and we want the lecture to continue for many years to come,” states Mrs. West.

For more information on Susan West and the Douglas West Endowed Memorial Lecture, please visit the links below.