Merlin honored as young leader in hospice and palliative care

UAB’s Jessica Merlin is recognized as an inspirational leader for her work managing chronic pain in patients with HIV.

jessica merlinJessica Merlin, M.D., MBA, an assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has been named an inspirational leader in hospice and palliative medicine under the age of 40 by the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

AAHPM asked its 5,000 members to nominate the young leaders in the field. Merlin is one of these physicians singled out by peers for innovation in and dedication to the medical specialty of hospice and palliative medicine.

“These individuals are enhancing care for seriously ill patients and their families through innovation, education, mentoring and clinical care,” said Jean S. Kutner, M.D., president of AAHPM.

Hospice and palliative medicine focuses on improving quality of life and relieving pain and other symptoms in seriously ill patients. Palliative care can and should be provided to patients who continue to receive treatments to try to cure or control their disease, regardless of their prognosis.

Hospice is a specific type of palliative care for patients whose life expectancy is likely to be six months or less. Hospice and palliative care also helps patients and families understand their treatment options and make decisions about their care, and provides information on spiritual and psychosocial services, support for family and caregivers, and grief counseling.

Merlin, who earned her medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania, is particularly interested in management of chronic pain within the context of palliative care. Her clinical and research focus is on patients with HIV.

“These patients have higher rates of mental illness and substance use, and I am particularly interested in treating pain and emotional suffering among individuals with these complex co-morbidities,” Merlin said. “There is little research on chronic pain in HIV, and few palliative care physicians choose chronic pain as their focus. This award is very meaningful to me as it brings attention to this understudied area.”

More information on this award, including the list of winners, is on the academy’s website