Palliative Care at UM St. Joseph Medical Center

Palliative Care is the subspecialty of medicine which focuses on quality of life issues for those with a serious illness.

It looks at the physical, psychological and emotional suffering that a patient and their family are experiencing.

As caregivers, we look at the impact that an illness is having. We help the patient live fully and well with a serious illness.

Palliative Care vs. Hospice Care

Palliative care is not hospice care, though it encompasses hospice. Hospice care is when the time left from a disease can be reasonably understood to be less than six months, and the patient with his or her family have decided that it is time to only focus on quality of days and comfort, not on medical care focused on prolonging life.

Palliative care includes aggressive medical interventions to prolong days and control or reduce a disease. It celebrates all the good news from those treatments, but is there for bad news, and side effects of treatments. Palliative care aids in the conversations about when it is time to shift focus from quantity of days to quality of days. The earlier palliative care is involved, the more helpful it can be.

Other Benefits of Palliative Care

Studies show that patients who have a better idea of their prognosis have better quality of life during the last months of life. In some cases, those who receive earlier comfort-focused palliative and hospice care live longer, compared to those who receive aggressive hospital treatment.

The Palliative Care Team

The UM SJMC Palliative Care Team includes:

  • Helen Gordon, MD, FACP T
  • Morgan Pembroke, MD
  • Virginia Jump, CRNP - Nurse Practitioner
  • Shannon Nagy, CRNP - Nurse Practitioner
  • Sara Latrobe, LCSW-C
  • Phyllis Lee, Administrative Coordinator

Inpatient and outpatient consults are available. Dr. Gordon is part of the team at the Cancer Institute and can meet one-on-one with patients and families whenever helpful. Patients receiving palliative care while still receiving aggressive care for cancer report better quality of life and have been shown sometimes to live longer.

Who is Appropriate for Palliative Care?

  • Cancer patients with stage 3 (many) or 4, or recurrent cancer
  • Patients with progressive neurological disease such as PSNP, Parkinson’s, ALS
  • Those with progressive lung disease needing oxygen, or having frequent exacerbations or hospitalizations
  • Patients with progressive cardiac disease, such as CHF or aortic stenosis
  • Patients with progressive dementia or frailty
  • Everyone with a serious illness
  • Anyone who has undue suffering related to medical conditions


For more information, please call 410-427-5352.