Donation to expand palliative care

With a recent $1 million donation to the Palliative Care Program at the Smilow Cancer Hospital and Yale Cancer Center, doctors are hoping to expand research and patient care in the often overlooked field.

The Milbank Foundation for Rehabilitation is providing the $1 million donation in equal installments over the course of four years, and the first allotment was given earlier this month. The donation will allow for the expansion of the Yale Cancer Center’s existing Palliative Care Program, which provides multidisciplinary support for physical, spiritual and psychosocial suffering from serious diseases, said Chief of Palliative Medicine Jennifer Kapo, the program’s director. Funds will be used to develop a bereavement program to help grieving family members of terminally ill and dying patients. The donation will also increase palliative care education and training by funding a fellowship program at the Yale School of Medicine.

“We are thrilled to receive this support,” Kapo said. “It’s a very generous amount.”

Yale Cancer Center Director Thomas Lynch ’82 MED ’86 said that it is often difficult to secure funding for palliative care because many patients and donors prefer to support scientific research into the causes and cures for diseases. But palliative care, he said, is very important to the treatment of diseases such as cancer.

“Good palliative care can lead to a longer life and a better quality of life for patients,” Lynch said. “Palliative care has been one of my key priorities [as director of the Yale Cancer Center].”

Lynch said since hiring Kapo to run the program one year ago, “palliative care has dramatically improved.” He added that the Milbank Foundation’s goals match those of the Yale Cancer Center.

Though palliative care is not “end-of-life” or hospice care, Kapo said it is important to integrate such pain management into treatment of curable diseases. Studies have shown that lung cancer patients who received early palliative care had a longer median survival rate than those who did not.

“It’s the newer iteration of rehabilitation, so it’s a natural progression from the foundation’s interest in physical rehabilitation,” said Carl Helstrom, executive director of the Milbank Foundation. “It’s [a] continuation of what we’ve been trying to do.”

Founded in 1995 in honor of philanthropist Jeremiah Milbank 1909, the Milbank Foundation has supported a number of research, rehabilitation and palliative care programs in New York and at Yale. Milbank started the nation’s first comprehensive rehabilitation center in 1917 to support soldiers returning from World War I.

“We’re not a huge foundation, so we like to get into situations that are highly leveraged,” Helstrom said. “For us to get in and make a contribution at a point in the creation of something, we feel we can help to get more bang for the buck.”

Helstrom added that he hopes the million-dollar donation will help Yale’s palliative care service become a multimillion-dollar operation over time.

Milbank’s grandson Jeremiah Bogert ’63, a member of the foundation’s board of directors, said he heard Lynch talk about his vision for the Yale Cancer Center at the Yale Club in New York two years ago and expressed interest in providing support. Last June, the Milbank Foundation received a “well-thought-out and well-organized” proposal from Lynch and Kapo, and approved the donation in October.

“As a graduate of the class of 1963, I’m in my 50th reunion year and it’s very gratifying to me to be able to do this at this time, because I love Yale and what Yale has done for me,” Bogert said.

Smilow Cancer Hospital is the most comprehensive cancer facility in New England.

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