New UF professorship in Jacksonville supports palliative care program for children

The University of Florida College of Medicine–Jacksonville and Community Hospice of Northeast Florida officials announced Oct. 18 that they have established the nation’s first partnership between a nonprofit hospice organization and an academic institution to create an endowed professorship in pediatric palliative care. 

Community Hospice, through a commitment from the Neviaser Family Foundation, donated $600,000 to the UF department of pediatrics in Jacksonville to create the Community Hospice of Northeast Florida/Neviaser Family Professorship in Pediatric Palliative Care. 

The professorship, which is among only a handful of endowed professorships of its kind in the nation, is expected to lead to the development of a new combined pediatric-adult palliative care fellowship in 2013 at the College of Medicine. 

Palliative care is holistic care, including pain and symptom management, for patients with serious, complex medical conditions and their families. It is focused on preventing or relieving the physical and emotional distress of a serious illness or condition with a team that includes doctors, nurses, social workers, clergy and other specialists. 

“This gift recognizes the unmet needs in addressing pediatric palliative care issues,” said Robert C. Nuss, M.D., UF associate vice president for health affairs and dean of the College of Medicine’s Jacksonville regional campus. “We hope this gift will encourage others to support this most worthy endeavor.” 

Jeffrey L. Goldhagen, M.D., MPH., a professor and chief of the division of community pediatrics at the College of Medicine–Jacksonville, has been appointed to the professorship. 

“Pediatric palliative care is not about caring for kids with complex medical conditions in their last six months of life,” he said. “It’s about caring for these children and families along the full continuum of their life course.” 

Developments in medicine and technology have allowed more children with complex medical conditions to live longer and stay in their homes. Pediatric palliative care has been recognized as an important element of comprehensive pediatric care to help these children and their families thrive, Goldhagen said. 

“This is a rapidly emerging subspecialty in pediatrics,” he said. “This is not just medical care, but quality of life.”

The new professorship will advance the opportunities for training, research and education in pediatric palliative care. It also formally strengthens the private-academic partnership that currently exists between UF and Community Hospice of Northeast Florida’s Jacksonville-based Community PedsCare program, and could serve as a national model for other communities. Many pediatric palliative care programs focus on serving the child in the hospital, while Community PedsCare cares for them in their homes, schools and community, as well as in the hospital and outpatient settings. 

Community Hospice’s gift assures that Community PedsCare and pediatric palliative care will continue to grow, evolve and endure as an asset to the community and a national model of excellence, said Susan Ponder-Stansel, president and chief executive officer of Community Hospice of Northeast Florida. 

“The involvement of UF — with its academic medicine and research capacity — was the next logical step to help the program grow,” she said. “While we are excellent service providers, the ability to do research and train physicians was a component we needed a partner to help us accomplish.” 

Established in 2000, Community PedsCare is a nationally recognized pediatric palliative and hospice program for children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions. A program of Community Hospice of Northeast Florida in collaboration with Wolfson Children’s Hospital, Nemours Children’s Clinic and the University of Florida College of Medicine–Jacksonville, Community PedsCare offers support, comfort and care to these children and their families.