BELFAST — Palliative care, an interdisciplinary medical and team caregiving approach for optimizing quality of life and mitigating suffering among seriously ill people, is the topic of a two-day conference Oct. 6 and 7 at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center in Belfast.

The Inaugural Statewide Palliative Care Conference is co-hosted by the Palliative Care and Quality of Life Interdisciplinary Advisory Council and the Maine Hospice Council.

Lauren Michalakes, MD, MPH and council chair, said, “There is a need for people doing the work to find each other again. We’ve been isolated and alone during these past 2 1/2 years due to COVID-19. The cornerstone of palliative care is relationships; those with our patients, those with our teammates, and as importantly, with those who share common experiences and passions while doing this work.”

The Inaugural Statewide Palliative Care Conference features four keynote speakers, and about 30 breakout speakers covering a wealth of palliative care topics. Also, an Oct. 6 palliative care listening session will feature a video message from Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and in-person interaction with King’s representatives.

The four keynote topics and presenters are:

  • “Spirituality: Identifying and Addressing the Powerful Domain of Palliative Care,” with Betty Ferrell, RN, PhD, MA, FAAN, FPCN, CHPN. Ferrell is director of nursing research and education and professor, City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte, California.
  • “Balancing Responsibility and Scrutiny for Opioid Prescribing.” Jim VanKirk, MD, FACP, medical director, palliative care, Winchester Hospital, Winchester, Virginia, and Elisabeth Mock, MD, MPH, FAAFP, clinical and policy consultant, Maine Prescription Monitoring Program, Maine Office of Behavioral Health.
  • “Trending Palliative Care in Maine, 2016-2021: What You Need to Know,” by Cordt Kassner, PhD, CEO, Hospice Analytics.

Of the conference proceedings, Michalakes said, “We hope to explore more meaningful standards and definitions for palliative care. While interdisciplinary team-based care is a well-described concept, there are barriers to its efficient delivery. Our plan is to explore the barriers to its delivery and identify solutions for overcoming. We hope that by the end of the day, people will have identified opportunities to lessen the gap between those who need palliative care and those who provide it.

“Hopefully, attendees will leave the conference with a plan,” she said. “Some will take the information back to their program leaders, and hopefully receive support and resources to build high quality programs. Other medical providers, family members, and advocates will also benefit by being more informed and empowered to request palliative care, as they encounter broader populations of patients and family members in need of this very important care.”

The conference takes place Thursday and Friday, Oct. 6 and 7, from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday and 7:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday.

For a complete schedule of events, including the breakout speakers/topics, contact Kathryn Randall at the Maine Hospice Council, or 626-0651. Register to attend the Inaugural Palliative Care Conference online: