The 2014 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Awards in the senior physician category honor Catherine D. Deamant, MD, system director of Supportive and Palliative Care Services for the Cook County Health and Hospitals System in Chicago and program director of the Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship at the John H. Stroger Hospital of Cook County. She is commended for creating a nationally recognized palliative care service that delivers state-of-the-art care in a county-funded safety net hospital, serving patient populations that lack access to such care, including immigrants and detainees.
Dr. Deamant began her career as an attending physician in general medicine at Cook County Hospital, specializing in the care of patients with HIV and care of homeless patients. In 2001, she devoted her career to palliative care and became the sole practitioner for the institution. Since then, she has grown the service to include six attending physicians, a nurse practitioner, a nurse, and two social workers, who see 850 inpatient consults a year, run five outpatient clinics, perform home visits, and train three fellows per year.
Joshua Baru, MD, attending physician at the John Stroger Hospital and member of the Section of Palliative Care, who nominated Dr. Deamant, cited the lengths to which she has gone to ensure that her patients receive the best possible care. These lengths included personally training interpreters to communicate with immigrant patients at the end of their lives and helping to honor the wishes of those who want to die in their home countries. “She developed relationships with local consulates and created a protocol for assisting terminally ill patients travel,” wrote Dr. Baru. “Cathy can develop a plan for all manner of medicines, medical tubes, and devices, so that travel from Chicago to Mongolia, Poland, or the Philippines with limited funds is possible, even for someone with extensive disease and poor performance status.”
Dr. Baru emphasized the tremendous barriers to providing quality end-of-life care in a resource-strapped safety-net population. “Hard work is not enough to realize this goal,” he wrote. “It takes energy, passion and dedication to motivate the institution to develop the resources necessary to deliver optimal care at the end of life. It takes integrity to stand firm to your principles when faced with barriers and maintain respect when promoting work that is new, uncomfortable and even controversial.”
Dr. Deamant received her medical degree from Rush Medical College in 1987.