The Regence Foundation selected Seattle Cancer Care Alliance's Dr. Tony Back to receive a Sojourns Award for his leadership and innovation in advancing palliative care in Washington state. Back will receive the award, which includes a $50,000 grant, at a Nov. 30 ceremony in Portland, Ore.
Back plans to designate the award to the University of Washington in support of a new project specifically aimed at disseminating the work he developed through the Onco-Talk project, a training program for oncology fellows to improve oncologists’ communication skills. The project is funded by the National Cancer Institute and based at the UW.
A professor of oncology at the UW, Back cares for SCCA colorectal, liver, pancreatic and stomach cancer patients and is director of the Program on Cancer Communication. He was the physician lead in establishing the palliative care program at SCCA.
Palliative care is a medical specialty that brings relief and comfort to seriously ill patients and their families. The award is part of The Regence Foundation's Sojourns program to expand access to hospital and community based palliative care services.
‘A pioneer in doctor-patient communication’
"Not only has Dr. Back been instrumental in bringing palliative care programs to Puget Sound area hospitals, but he is also a pioneer in doctor-patient communication," said Peggy Maguire, Regence Foundation board chair. "His work teaching doctors how to talk with their patients about palliative care helps ensure patients and their families have the resources they need to make informed decisions about care at the end of life."
Back has taught hundreds of doctors, medical students and clinicians how to have compassionate conversations about end-of-life care with patients and their families. He is also the author of numerous papers, articles and books about improving the doctor-patient conversation around palliative care for cancer patients and others with life-limiting illnesses.
"It is a tremendous honor for me to receive the Sojourns award," Back said. "Palliative care is a critical need in our health care systems to address quality of life for patients living with serious illness and their families, and the skills that clinicians use to communicate with patients and families empowers them to make decisions that match their values, decreases unnecessary worry and improves outcomes."
The Regence Foundation, the corporate foundation of health insurer Regence, partners with organizations driving significant change in health care delivery and accessibility in Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
[Adapted from a Regence Foundation news release]