Dr Esther Cege Munyoro, head of the Palliative Care Unit at Kenyatta National Referral Hospital (KNH) and Dr Zipporah Ali of Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) were among participants at the recently held AAHPM/HPNA Annual Assembly which was held in New Orleans from 13th to 16th March 2013.

The AAHPM/HPNA annual assembly is designed for physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers interested in acquiring, maintaining, or expanding the skills needed to function effectively in the field of hospice and palliative care.

As leaders in promoting excellence in hospice and palliative care, AAHPM and HPNA combine their expertise to advance the field, thus meeting the shared goal of improving the quality of life for patients and families facing serious or life-threatening conditions.

Both Dr Munyoro and Dr Ali were among the six doctors from developing countries who were selected to participate in the assembly and share their experiences with others. Participants from other developing countries were Dr Christian Ntizimira from Rwanda, Dr Kehinde Obembe from Nigeria, Dr Dinesh Chandra Goswami and Dr Shantanu Sharma, both from India.

The AAHPM/HPNA provides an opportunity for health care professionals and others working in hospice and palliative care to gain knowledge from leaders in the hospice and palliative care field, offering an opportunity to be inspired and invigorated by captivating speakers, thus reminding participants why they chose to work in the field of palliative care.

“I was very impressed by the number of doctors and nurses at the assembly and to listen to their vast experiences in patient care as well as  influencing policy in palliative care in the USA. Although the developing counties are not at par with the developed countries, it was interesting to note that we have many similarities and face similar challenges in making palliative care a priority in our health care systems. Learning from our colleagues and friends from the developed countries on how they have been able to address some of the common barriers to hospice and palliative care is important.” Says Dr Ali.

Although Kenya does not have a free standing policy on palliative care, palliative care is slowly being integrated into the public health care system; it has been included in the National Cancer Control Strategy as well as the draft National Cancer Treatment Guidelines. Currently, there is ongoing advocacy work to have it included in the Country Action Plan on non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Dr Ali says that the assembly had very engaging plenary sessions as well as workshops. In one of the plenary sessions both David Oliver and  Debra Parker Oliver shared their story on having an exit strategy that was very captivating. Kevin O’Connor facilitated a very inspiring workshop on Leadership titled ‘You are Just Not A Doctor Anymore’ that opened our minds on leadership as doctors.

At the AAHPM/HPNA Annual Assembly, the doctors were able to interact with key palliative care champions like Dr Frank Ferris who has been an inspiration and mentor to them as palliative care leaders.

“We did enjoy our stay in New Orleans. The people were great and the food very unique. We thoroughly enjoyed the dinner cruise with jazz on the Mississippi River that Dr Alva Baker and his lovely wife invited us to, as well as Dinner at Irene’s with Dr Stephen Radwany and John Mastrojohn of NHPCO.” She says.

Dr Ali’s parting shot; “Thank you AAHPM/HPNA and in particular, Jennifer Bose, for all the great work you are doing.”