Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cambia Awards $10 Million to University of Washington Palliative Care

The Cambia Health Foundation made a huge impact in palliative care this week when they awarded the University of Washington Palliative Care Center of Excellence a $10 million naming gift. For many teams working in palliative care, philanthropic support of this kind is something you dream about when your team is trying to plan for the future. This multi-million dollar level of direct charitable support for palliative care projects brings to mind the late 90's and early 2000's when Robert Wood Johnson, Milbank and Soros/Open Society Foundation funded many early projects we still look to today (SUPPORT study, CAPC, EPEC, 1997 IOM report and more).

Cambia Health Foundation was founded in 2007 to make an impact on Palliative Care, Transforming Health Care and Children's Health. They are the corporate foundation of Cambia Health Solutions, a health insurance company that focuses on the Pacific Northwest and previously known as The Regence Group. Some of you may be familiar with what Cambia has done with the Sojourns Awards ($180,000 innovation grants), which have recently moved to a national focus and we discuss in more detail below.

Earlier this week, I interviewed Randy Curtis, MD, the director of the newly named Cambia Palliative Care Center of Excellence (Cambia PCCE) at the University of Washington (UW) and Peggy Maguire, president and board chair for the Cambia Health Foundation about this fantastic partnership.

Sinclair: Congratulations on receiving this grant! Randy, tell me what this award means to you.

Curtis: This is a huge opportunity for the Cambia Palliative Care Center of Excellence. We've been existence for two years as a center for excellence, starting in October of 2012. We have been busy building a program which encompasses both clinical care and education, as well as research, centered at the University of Washington. What Cambia has provided us is an opportunity to dramatically extend and grow our program and to be much more of a resource regionally and nationally as well.

Sinclair: Could you share the clinical history of your programs?

Curtis: The University of Washington Medicine includes the UW Medical Center, Harborview, and our two community hospitals Northwest and Valley for clinical service. We also have outstanding partners in education, research and collaboration at Children's and VA. Palliative care consultation services are present at each of those campuses, and they are all at different periods in their development. UW and Harborview have pretty mature programs.

Sinclair: Peggy, how did you start to connect with UW and Dr. Curtis?

Maguire: Randy is a preivous Sojourns Awards winner (2013) as is one of his colleagues Dr. Tony Back (2011). We first became familiar with their program as we were looking for palliative care leaders and innovators. That was our first connection. When the PCCE was founded at UW in 2012, Cambia Health Foundation made an initial grant to support them. Since then we have had touch points through our Sojourns grant making and awards program. As we got to learn more about the program and the leadership of the Center, we felt there was a really strong opportunity to spread the word about palliative care, both in creating awareness on the consumer side as well as the provider side.

Sinclair: Peggy, can you talk about Cambia Health Foundation's pivot from being a regional supporter to a national leader in supporting palliative care?

Maguire: Yes, I think one of the shifts is in the way we changed our Sojourns Awards, which initially was to recognize leaders in our geographic footprint. In 2014, we focused on emerging leaders from across the country who are doing really interesting projects in palliative medicine. We thought supporting them could develop the field and build a stronger workforce. In our 2014 Sojourns scholars program, we awarded 10 scholars $180,000 each over two years. We also paired those scholars with mentors and established leaders in the field. This allows each scholar to work on their innovations and projects. We're excited about what this group will learn from each other and the dissemination of their work. We hope it will have a big impact.

Also with the UW Cambia PCCE, we hope their outreach will help the Pacific NW be seen as a hub of innovation and leadership. What they develop here will have application not only in Seattle and the Pacific NW but the rest of the country. We think it will become a beacon for other PC programs and we are excited about that.

Sinclair: Randy, coming out of the gate what will be your focus in 2015 that we can get really excited about?

Curtis: We're focusing on both primary and secondary palliative care. One of our initiatives is to improve palliative care delivered by clinicians who are not palliative care specialists. We are developing palliative care training centers, where we offer training for interdisciplinary teams (social worker, nurse, doctor, and spiritual care). This program spans over a nine-month period, including three one-day intensive courses in Seattle, but also distance learning and video feedback. That is one of the programs we are launching right away. In addition, we are working with our faculty member Tony Back and his VITALtalk program to further training in primary palliative and specialty palliative medicine clinicians.

Sinclair: Burnout is a hot topic right now and with you getting a fantastic resource from Cambia like this - how do you see your balance between being really innovative and trying to figure out if you have the right amount of faculty and staff to accomplish day to day clinical duties? I know some who see this award may think, "I could do some of these things, but I don't have the faculty or the staff." How are you and the PCCE looking at this issue?

Curtis: This is a really key issue, and a focus of the center: looking at the ways to reduce the development of burnout and also address burnout when it does develop. We want to focus on the burnout of palliative care specialists, but also the burnout of people caring for serious illness for those doing primary palliative care. The other approach which will be key, which you alluded to is to build the workforce. A key reason for high burnout among palliative care specialists is the inability to fill positions that are funded because they are difficult to fill,. That workload stresses those who are trying to cover all the work. That is another area we will focus on as well.

Sinclair: Peggy, Many people across the country who pay attention to philanthropy and palliative care issues will be reading and talking about this grant within their teams and departments. Besides knocking on your door and calling you to say "Hey, we don't suppose you have any more amazing palliative care grants laying around?", how can something like this jump start the local philanthropic effort in other cities and regions? It obviously shouldn't have to be all Cambia, but don't we need to find other Cambia-like organizations to try and start doing something like this?

Maguire: I love that question. Our cause as a company is to transform health care and to create a more person-focused system. The Cambia Health Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Cambia and we take our role as a catalyst very seriously. If other organizations want to collaborate with us to help support great work, we welcome that. It would be wonderful if another funder called us up to collaborate or another funder was inspired to give a gift like this. We would be happy to work with like-minded partners. That is a fundamental tenet of who we are. We don't want to do it all by ourselves, We can be a catalyst to inspire others and make an impact on the field.

Sinclair: Any other points we did not touch on, which are important to the future of this program?

Curtis: A big part of naming the Cambia Palliative Care Center of Excellence is a responsibility on our part to serve as a resource to our region and the nation for programs that want to help identify donors and grow. We will be focused on outreach to provide that resource.

The second point is we have gotten to know the Cambia Health Foundation through the last three years through the Sojourns award program and it is a real honor to be associated with the name Cambia . Their values are in the right place; for them this about making health care more person-centered, incorporating patients and their families. That is a relationship I am very proud to be a part of. This is an opportunity because palliative care is at a tipping point. I think what Cambia is doing with the naming grant and other programs is contributing to that tipping point. With that, I believe there will be more opportunities for all of us to identify additional resources to find philanthropy and funding.

Maguire: Absolutely our dedication to palliative care runs very deep in our organization, and it is very personal to us, to the members of our foundation board. Palliative care is critical to the health care system in our country. I can't think of a better approach to patient care and having a workforce that is trained and skilled in palliative care will only help patients and families in health care.

Image Credit: Cambia Health Foundation
Photo Credit: University of Washington
Photo Credit: Cambia Health Foundation
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