McMaster University

McMaster University

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Palliative care advocate receives Latimer Prize

Published: January 29, 2016
Denise Marshall
Dr. Denise Marshall, associate professor, Department of Family Medicine

An eloquent advocate who has devoted her medical career to the improvement of end-of-life care has received the 2016 Elizabeth J. Latimer Prize in Palliative Care.

Dr. Denise Marshall, an associate professor of family medicine for the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University, received the award this week.

As a medical student at McMaster's medical school in the mid-80s she had been interested in all types of medicine. However, she remembers one day in a dark lecture hall at a city hospital when she heard McMaster professor Elizabeth Latimer talk about care at the end of life.

"She explained that supporting people at the end of life involves mind, body and soul. It was the first time we talked about the whole patient. It was startling. What she said made 100 percent sense, and I knew that was exactly what I was going to do."

Latimer, who was internationally renowned as a physician for her pioneering work in palliative care, became Marshall's mentor. Marshall dove into electives, research and a family medicine residency with an emphasis on learning about this newly developing area of health care.

During her career of more than 25 years since, Marshall has provided leadership on palliative care issues at every level. She has been an active palliative care physician and began the Niagara West Palliative Care Team of Grimsby, and she was a founder and the first medical director for the Niagara Hospice-McNally House. At McMaster, she was the inaugural director of the Division of Palliative Care hosted in the family medicine department on behalf of the Faculty, revamped the curriculum in that area and oversaw resident training.

Locally she has been a leader for the recognition and development of palliative care at the Local Health Integration Network; at the provincial level she helped found the Quality End of Life Care Coalition of Ontario and worked on committees for the provincial government. Beyond, she has been active in the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians and she was the founding director of the International Association for Public Health and Palliative Care.

"I can't not be involved. I like going back and forth at all levels from grass roots to the 30,000 foot level. They're not separate levels but more like nesting cups that are all vital for good care," she said. 

"Palliative care has a focus on the end of life, but it is really just about providing good care," said Marshall, adding that palliative care requires not just a healthcare team, but an engaged citizenry, to achieve the whole person care that's needed.

The Elizabeth J. Latimer Prize, named for the mentor who died in 2012, recognizes excellence and innovation in palliative care and is given to a clinician, teacher, researcher or administrator whose work continues to pave the way for continued growth and improvement of end-of-life care in the region.

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