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Dr. Tucker and Marie Bakitas

At UAB, the origins of the Palliative Medicine Program began with a specific physician champion and nurse champion, Dr. John Shuster and Dr. Pamela Fordham. The need for a palliative care program arose out of an identified need for additional supportive care services for oncology patients with high symptom burden and distress. Noted below are the important dates of the progression and growth of the UAB Palliative Medicine Program and Center for Palliative and Supportive Care.

The UAB Palliative Medicine Program was established within the Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine in May of 1998. It was then, that Dr. Shuster served as the director until 2004. In August of 2004, the UAB Center for Palliative Care and the Palliative Medicine Program transferred to the Department of Medicine, Division of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine. They joined with the Birmingham VA Medical Center and Safe Harbor Project. This produced a flow of multi-source funding secured from Department of Medicine, UAB Health System and Comprehensive Cancer Center. Faculty members in Palliative Medicine formed a new Palliative Care Section within the division that included Drs. Bailey, Tucker, Baker, Kvale, Williams, and Griffin.

The dedication of the UAB Palliative and Comfort Care Unit was held on March 5, 2006. On October 1, 2006, the division name officially changed to the Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care. By July 23, 2008, the center was designated as a Palliative Care Leadership Center (PCLC) by the Center to Advance Palliative Care. It was originally located at the McDonald Clinic until November of 2011 when it moved to the Kirklin Clinic. The official opening of the Palliative and Supportive Care Clinic at the Kirklin Clinic was held on January 12, 2012. By December of 2012, the Carolyn C. Hunter Endowed Support Fund for Excellence in Education for the Center of Palliative and Supportive Care was established. The center received the Circle of Life Citation of Honor on May 7, 2014. In December of 2015, the Christine S. Ritchie, MD, Endowed Chair in Palliative Care Leadership was established. Rodney Tucker, MD, MMM, was named the first chair holder.

Current Leadership

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Rodney Tucker, MD, MMM
Director of the Center for Palliative & Supportive Care

Prior Leadership

John Shuster, MD, 1998-2004
Pam Fordham, DSN 2003-2011
Christine Ritchie, MD 2004-2012