Podcast 26: What is Palliative Care?


Palliative care is not end of life care. Heather is a palliative care physician and she shares what palliative care really is. It focuses on managing symptoms of distress of the patients and family members. As a palliative care physician, Heather helps patients define their goals of care and align these goals of care with their individual definition of quality of life. Her understanding of what the future of the patient looks like allows palliative care to help family members make the best decisions about treatments and their side effects based on the person’s overall condition. Recognizing palliative care as a support team is essential because they are a huge help in ensuring that patients are achieving their quality of life and working through family dynamics.

What’s in this Episode?

0:00 Better Health

1:30 What is palliative care?

2:27 Meet Heather

3:13 Managing symptoms of distress for patients

3:42 Helping patients align their definition of quality of life with care

3:59 Cancer diagnosis and palliative care

6:17 How to coordinate palliative care with specialists

7:58 Understanding the prognosis of a patient

10:11 Conversations about patient treatment and care

11:00 Recognizing palliative care as support team

12:10 Coordination of care

12:54 Programs wit screening tools

13:34 The palliative care team

14:18 Palliative care versus hospice

15:00 The opportunity for patients to talk

15:50 Hospice as a component of palliative care

16:10 Understanding quality of life

17:50 Impact of palliative care treatment

19:05 Working through family dynamics

About Dr. Heather Sung

Dr. Sung received her medical degree at the University of Connecticut and completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in 1998.  She attributes much of her knowledge on doctoring to her early career as a community physician in Boston with Massachusetts General Hospital.  There, she was inspired by the devotion and compassion of her colleagues and the richness and diversity of her patients.  She moved back to Connecticut to begin a family and worked as a Hospitalist at Danbury Hospital from 2002-2016.  With a great interest in the humanism of medicine, Dr. Sung became board certified in Hospice and Palliative Medicine in 2012.  In 2016 she transitioned fully into the practice of this specialty and became the Clinical Leader of Palliative Care at Norwalk Hospital.  Recognizing the growing complexity of disease and the increasing needs of our aging population, as well as the shortage in meeting these needs in the outpatient setting, Dr. Sung is excited to have founded PalliMD.

In addition to her clinical work, Dr. Sung strongly believes that experience and knowledge should be shared.  As such she has been very active in education.  During her time in Boston, Dr. Sung was an Instructor in Medicine for Harvard Medical School and was part of the Clinical Faculty of the Massachusetts General Hospital Internal Medicine Residency.  She is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Robert Larner College of Medicine, University of Vermont, and she has taught the Palliative Medicine lecture series for the Norwalk Hospital Internal Medicine Residency.  Additionally, Dr. Sung has taught the Palliative Medicine curriculum for Sacred Heart University’s Physician Assistant School.

Dr. Heather Sung believes that being entrusted by her patients is a true gift.  In her free time, Dr. Sung enjoys all outdoor activities that include her husband and two boys and spending time with her two rescue pets.


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