Dr Grace Yang, Chairman of 8th Singapore Palliative Care Conference (SPCC 2023) Organising Committee, and Dr Raphael Lee, Chairman of SPCC 2023 Scientific Committee, share their thoughts on the palliative care sector, research and SPCC 2023.
Dr Grace Yang is Senior Consultant for the Division of Supportive & Palliative Care at National Cancer Centre Singapore, as well as Director of Research at SingHealth Duke-NUS Supportive & Palliative Care Centre. She is currently a Fellow of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore and in addition to her clinical work, she is also engaged in research projects pertaining to spirituality, health services research and quality of life.
Dr Raphael Lee is Consultant for the Department of Palliative Medicine and Supportive Care at Woodlands Health Campus. His research interests include frailty, geriatrics and organ failures. Dr Lee has collaborated with Singapore Hospice Council (SHC) previously as a speaker for SHC’s Multidisciplinary Palliative Care Forum, where he shared his experience and knowledge on frailty in palliative care and how it affects patients.
WHAT LED YOU TO PALLIATIVE CARE?
Dr Grace Yang (GY): I was drawn to the holistic approach of palliative care because I wanted to look at the patient as a whole person rather than a mere collection of body parts. Also, working in palliative care allows me the privilege of journeying with someone as they go through the challenges of a serious illness.
Dr Raphael Lee (RL): Palliative care is very similar to my first speciality, geriatric medicine, in terms of its multidisciplinary and holistic approach and I view it as a continuum of care that I can deliver for my patients. I was heavily influenced by my grandmother whose values, love and guidance inspired me to care for older adults. The compassion and dedication of seniors, colleagues and the multidisciplinary team I worked with during my training were heartwarming and they all served as role models for me in choosing palliative medicine eventually as my subspecialty.
HOW DO YOU DECIDE ON A RESEARCH TOPIC?
GY: During the course of my clinical practice, I realised that in order to make a bigger impact, I needed to conduct research into models of palliative care service delivery so as to bring about system-level change in the delivery of care to patients.
RL: I decide on my research projects and collaborations based on both interest as well as identified needs. My current scope of work is in the areas of frailty, geriatrics and organ failures.
HOW DOES INVESTING IN RESEARCH CONTRIBUTE TOWARDS DELIVERING QUALITY PALLIATIVE CARE?
RL: Research establishes evidence to inform our medical practice and shape our clinical approach for decision-making that will enable us to provide quality and patientcentric care for our patients with life-limiting illness. On a larger scale, it can inform policy-making that will positively guide delivery and provision of palliative care.
THE THEME FOR SPCC THIS YEAR IS “BUILDING COLLABORATIVE COMMUNITIES”. WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO ENCOURAGE COLLABORATION, INCLUSIVITY AND OPEN DIALOGUE IN THIS FIELD?
GY: We all bring something different to the table — different skills, experiences and perspectives. We can do so much more when we work together!
RL: Multidisciplinary teamwork has always been one of the core tenets in the delivery of care for our patients. By being consultative, we can harness the expertise of each family group to synergise and provide holistic care for our patients. I have also been humbled by the rich learning experience each encounter brings and am grateful for the guidance and correction of my shortcomings that would not have been possible if not for my team.
WHAT’S NEW AT SPCC 2023?
GY: We are expanding the content to include the wider palliative care community. In addition to topics such as pain management, we will be covering spiritual care and palliative care in the nursing home. We even have a special track for volunteers! We are also offering hospice visits, which will give participants a rare
opportunity to both learn and explore possible collaborations.
WHAT IS ONE SPCC PROGRAMME OR WORKSHOP YOU ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO?
GY: I am looking forward to the post-conference research development workshop in particular where an amazing expert panel will be giving guidance to young clinicians aspiring to do research. Not only will we get to hear about potential research proposals from these young clinicians, but the expert panel will also each share their research experience. I am even more excited about the opportunity to network with the palliative care research community.
RL: I am looking forward to the plenary on collaboration across care settings as the topics involve my areas of interest, and learning from the esteemed speakers to better my own clinical practice.
WHAT INNOVATIONS OR ADVANCEMENTS ARE YOU HOPING TO SEE IN THE PALLIATIVE CARE FIELD IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
GY: I hope that we as a palliative care fraternity will reach out and collaborate with others whose main area of work is not palliative care. There is so much we can learn from others. With all the outreach efforts by Singapore Hospice Council and palliative care organisations, public awareness of palliative care is increasing. Therefore, we should ride on the current wave of interest to collaborate and innovate in order to advance palliative care.
Photos: Singapore Hospice Council