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Professor, Researcher Earn National Honors For Improving End-Of-Life Care

A retired University of Missouri professor and a researcher in the Department of Family and Community Medicine have been recognized by two national health care organizations for their contributions to hospice and palliative medicine.

David Oliver, PhD, a retired MU professor and an Ellis Fischel Cancer Center patient, and his wife, Debra Oliver, PhD, a researcher and professor of family and community medicine, are the first non-health care providers to be named honorary members of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM). David Oliver also was named the first recipient of the David B. Oliver Legacy Society Award from the American College of Health Care Administrators (ACHCA) for his contributions to the organization since 1975. The awards were presented during a ceremony May 22.

David Oliver, a former professor of gerontology and former assistant director of the MU Interdisciplinary Center on Aging, was recognized by the ACHCA for his work improving senior care, including traveling to more than 26 states to train nursing home administrators.

“David has had a significant impact on resident-centered care and training administrators,” said Kendall Brune, PhD, president of the Missouri chapter of the ACHCA. “It is for many years of distinguished service for senior care that we wanted to create a fellowship that shows what we’re about: caring for the elderly. This kicks off the foundation of this fellowship, and it will always be known as the David B. Oliver Fellowship.”

In fall 2011, Oliver was diagnosed with stage IV nasopharyngeal cancer — a treatable but incurable form of cancer. While David and Debra Oliver have devoted their careers to improving care for terminally ill patients and their families, they were exposed first-hand to the experience of facing cancer. They are using the diagnosis and their unique perspectives as educators to improve patient care and inform hospice and palliative care providers.

“Telling your story about your cancer journey as a patient and a caregiver with our professional physicians and nurses at our annual conference really resonated and touched the hearts of our 2,500 attendees in ways I don’t think they had expected,” said Steve Smith, executive director of AAHPM. “Thank you for being a true inspiration to those with a serious illness, and we are very grateful for your personal contributions to our field.”

“Receiving these two recognitions is special,” David Oliver said. “I’m honored that we have been able to use our experiences to help others.”

AAHPM’s membership includes more than 4,400 physicians and other health care professionals committed to improving the care of patients with serious or life-threatening conditions. Since 1988, AAHPM has supported hospice and palliative medicine through advancement of clinical practice standards, fostering research, providing education and public advocacy.

Founded in 1962, ACHCA is a nonprofit professional membership association that provides educational programming, professional certification and career development opportunities for its members. Guided by the vision that dynamic leadership forges long-term health care services that are desired, meaningful, successful and efficient, ACHCA identifies, recognizes and supports long-term care leaders, advocating for their mission and promoting excellence in their profession.